Cain and able?

As the GOP presidential candidates meet for their 10th debate, Herman Cain must prove he's more than

Either he's the Great Survivor, or this could be the beginning of the end of Herman Cain's unlikely campaign for the Presidency of the United States.

Thus far, the former pizza mogul has managed to coast a series of gaffes and scandals that would have felled most candidates. Now, there's a debate over whether these latest allegations of sexual harassment could prove a tipping point for the campaign that's surprised everyone who thought they could predict how the Republican race would turn out.

Look at the numbers, and Cain appears to be in a pretty comfortable position. The latest poll of polls from Real Clear Politics puts him at 25 per cent; ahead of Mitt Romney on 23. And that's after what must have been the worst week of his political life.

The reason is partly Cain's unashamed populism, coupled with his traditional conservative values that appeal so much to the Tea Party-kind of politics that has become mainstream Republicanism across much of the country.

As John Cassidy writes in the New Yorker, Cain -- more than anyone else in the GOP field -- has discovered a way of connecting with all those disillusioned Americans, fearful about the future and longing not for doom-mongering, but optimism. The businessman who proclaims himself a "problem solver, not a politician" sounds a surer bet than someone mired in the old-style partisan bickering which has given Washington such a bad name.

TA Frank, who profiles Cain for the upcoming edition of the New York Times Magazine, depicts a candidate who just seems to plough on regardless. Former staff members, he writes, describe him as a man with

zero interest in policy. They speak of events canceled at the last minute to accommodate any available television interview. They speak of unrelenting self-absorption, even by the standards of a politician. But they don't speak of someone who can't win.

So far, at least, this winning streak has kept Cain's supporters on his side -- prepared to carry on giving him the benefit of the doubt. But how long can that go on, as more women come forward, prepared to go on the record with their claims of sexual harassment? Surely daily press conferences denying scandals do not a Presidential candidate make?

Last night Cain gave his first real press conference on the subject, allowing reporters to ask questions -- then appearing on ABC, to reject the latest allegations from two women, Sharon Bialek and Karen Kraushaar, and insist that it wouldn't derail his campaign.

He brought along his very own celebrity attorney, claimed he was doing it all "for the children" and denied everything, point blank. "I can categorically say I have never acted inappropriately with anyone. Period." he said. Once again, he blamed the media and something he called the "Democratic Machine" for drumming it all up in the first place.

But tonight, as the GOP candidates meet for their 10th debate in Michigan, it's a crucial moment for Cain. His performance tonight could determine whether he can draw a line under the sexual harassment allegations and start talking about something else. It's a moment for his supporters to decide if they're justified in staying loyal. Or, Herman Cain could turn out to be just another maverick candidate whose novelty and hubris proves unable to stay the course.

Felicity Spector is a senior producer at Channel 4 News.

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Debunking Boris Johnson's claim that energy bills will be lower if we leave the EU

Why the Brexiteers' energy policy is less power to the people and more electric shock.

Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have promised that they will end VAT on domestic energy bills if the country votes to leave in the EU referendum. This would save Britain £2bn, or "over £60" per household, they claimed in The Sun this morning.

They are right that this is not something that could be done without leaving the Union. But is such a promise responsible? Might Brexit in fact cost us much more in increased energy bills than an end to VAT could ever hope to save? Quite probably.

Let’s do the maths...

In 2014, the latest year for which figures are available, the UK imported 46 per cent of our total energy supply. Over 20 other countries helped us keep our lights on, from Russian coal to Norwegian gas. And according to Energy Secretary Amber Rudd, this trend is only set to continue (regardless of the potential for domestic fracking), thanks to our declining reserves of North Sea gas and oil.


Click to enlarge.

The reliance on imports makes the UK highly vulnerable to fluctuations in the value of the pound: the lower its value, the more we have to pay for anything we import. This is a situation that could spell disaster in the case of a Brexit, with the Treasury estimating that a vote to leave could cause the pound to fall by 12 per cent.

So what does this mean for our energy bills? According to December’s figures from the Office of National Statistics, the average UK household spends £25.80 a week on gas, electricity and other fuels, which adds up to £35.7bn a year across the UK. And if roughly 45 per cent (£16.4bn) of that amount is based on imports, then a devaluation of the pound could cause their cost to rise 12 per cent – to £18.4bn.

This would represent a 5.6 per cent increase in our total spending on domestic energy, bringing the annual cost up to £37.7bn, and resulting in a £75 a year rise per average household. That’s £11 more than the Brexiteers have promised removing VAT would reduce bills by. 

This is a rough estimate – and adjustments would have to be made to account for the varying exchange rates of the countries we trade with, as well as the proportion of the energy imports that are allocated to domestic use – but it makes a start at holding Johnson and Gove’s latest figures to account.

Here are five other ways in which leaving the EU could risk soaring energy prices:

We would have less control over EU energy policy

A new report from Chatham House argues that the deeply integrated nature of the UK’s energy system means that we couldn’t simply switch-off the  relationship with the EU. “It would be neither possible nor desirable to ‘unplug’ the UK from Europe’s energy networks,” they argue. “A degree of continued adherence to EU market, environmental and governance rules would be inevitable.”

Exclusion from Europe’s Internal Energy Market could have a long-term negative impact

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Amber Rudd said that a Brexit was likely to produce an “electric shock” for UK energy customers – with costs spiralling upwards “by at least half a billion pounds a year”. This claim was based on Vivid Economic’s report for the National Grid, which warned that if Britain was excluded from the IEM, the potential impact “could be up to £500m per year by the early 2020s”.

Brexit could make our energy supply less secure

Rudd has also stressed  the risks to energy security that a vote to Leave could entail. In a speech made last Thursday, she pointed her finger particularly in the direction of Vladamir Putin and his ability to bloc gas supplies to the UK: “As a bloc of 500 million people we have the power to force Putin’s hand. We can coordinate our response to a crisis.”

It could also choke investment into British energy infrastructure

£45bn was invested in Britain’s energy system from elsewhere in the EU in 2014. But the German industrial conglomerate Siemens, who makes hundreds of the turbines used the UK’s offshore windfarms, has warned that Brexit “could make the UK a less attractive place to do business”.

Petrol costs would also rise

The AA has warned that leaving the EU could cause petrol prices to rise by as much 19p a litre. That’s an extra £10 every time you fill up the family car. More cautious estimates, such as that from the RAC, still see pump prices rising by £2 per tank.

The EU is an invaluable ally in the fight against Climate Change

At a speech at a solar farm in Lincolnshire last Friday, Jeremy Corbyn argued that the need for co-orinated energy policy is now greater than ever “Climate change is one of the greatest fights of our generation and, at a time when the Government has scrapped funding for green projects, it is vital that we remain in the EU so we can keep accessing valuable funding streams to protect our environment.”

Corbyn’s statement builds upon those made by Green Party MEP, Keith Taylor, whose consultations with research groups have stressed the importance of maintaining the EU’s energy efficiency directive: “Outside the EU, the government’s zeal for deregulation will put a kibosh on the progress made on energy efficiency in Britain.”

India Bourke is the New Statesman's editorial assistant.