Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Rejoice! We’ve surrendered our power to France! And China!


So soporific were exchanges on the decision to build Hinkley Point C that we were forced to focus on extraneous details to keep awake. Such as the fact that Labour’s spokesperson Caroline Flint was absent because, as her deputy Tom Greatrex explained, she was the victim of a “power failure” on the Doncaster to London line.

This “shows we need this investment” exclaimed Ed Davey. So the trains may run on time from 2023! Yet another reason why a power station being built with a huge British subsidy to a state-owned company in France, with the help of another in China, is not, as Davey insisted, a “humiliation but a big triumph actually”.

Given that this is the first nuclear power station to be built here in 20 years, and at a moment when Germany and Japan are busily abandoning them, the wide Commons welcome for the decision was a bit odd. It took a second to understand why – with a handful of exceptions like the redoubtable green Caroline Flint – there was such a consensus.

Until months ago the Lib Dems were the leading opponents of nuclear power! Now it was a Lib Dem minister demonstrating what the pro-nuclear, right-wing Tory Sir Gerald Howarth warmly welcomed as Davey’s “Damascene conversion”. Davey stressed that this was only because was he was so against carbon emissions: “I hope that some on the Conservative Benches are prepared to accept that climate change is something we have to face up to.” Which roughly translates as: “I’ve gone along with nuclear, now you lot should go along with wind power.”

Monday’s statement renewed interest in Davey’s clothing, Greatrex congratulating him for looking less “damp and dishevelled” than he had at a wet and windy Hinkley Point earlier in the day. Davey then deflected Labour MP Meg Hillier’s taunt about telling people to wear jumpers. That wasn’t what he had said – as the record confirms. Challenged by Jeremy Paxman on whether he wore a jumper at home Davey admitted he did, but went on to say that wasn’t the point, and that people needed help with their energy bills (help the government seems to have some trouble providing).

So Jumpergate is no more! Except, oddly, Greatrex was wearing one – a comfy grey number which is unusual attire for a Commons front-bencher. Was he just cold? Or was he – unfairly as it turns out – mocking the Energy Secretary? We should be told.