David Cameron with Energy Secretary Ed Davey at the Clean Energy Ministerial conference in London. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Cameron has let the energy companies pocket his £50 bill cut

By failing to ensure companies pass on the full reduction, the PM has allowed them to boost profits at the expense of the consumer.

David Cameron’s timidity has left millions of customers with higher bills after his supposed £50 cut was exposed as a sham. Today’s figures show that his trademark complacency has let four of the six large suppliers by-pass the supposed £50 cut he trumpeted in December - meaning many of the Big Six have pocketed the benefit from Cameron’s changes to green levies, rather than passing it on to the consumer.And with 400,000 people without help to heat their homes as a result of government cancelling energy efficiency measures, it is the hardest pressed of customers that are hit.

Last December, at the time of Cameron and his hapless Lib Dem sidekick Ed Davey’s announcement, Labour warned that it would be at the discretion of the energy companies to pass on these reductions. We warned that the government’s plan did nothing to challenge the spiralling profits at the Big Six and we warned that they might seek to pocket some of the benefit, reducing the average £110 increase in bills by less than Cameron’s headline "£50" (meaning his cut was still a rise of at least £60 for consumers). And now it turns out they have.

Four of the Big Six will pass on just a fraction of the £50 cut in their costs. E.On, EDF, Npower and Scottish Power have all indicated that customers on fixed price deals will see just a £12 reduction in their bills. A total of 3.7 million customers are estimated to miss out on over £140m of savings.

By failing to pass on the full reduction, Cameron has helped the energy companies to boost profits at the expense of the consumer. Once again, he has been caught out standing up for the privileged few, aided and abetted by a hapless Lib Dem Secretary of State whose boast that "consumers are the ones who are winning" seems, at best, ill-judged.

Time and again, the big energy suppliers and their trade body claim to be sorry for their past behaviour, say that they have learnt lessons, proclaim that they want their customers to trust them, and that they are committed to working for fairness and transparency in the energy market. Yet today’s exposure shows that if they can find a way around a half-hearted government announcement, some of them will. It is this attitude that has caused the crisis of customer confidence in the energy sector – and it is a crisis that the government are either unwilling or (as demonstrated today) unable to address.

The UK energy market is in clear need of urgent reform, to make it clear, fair and transparent for the future. Only Labour has proposed to break up the Big Six, make their trading more transparent and scrap the discredited regulator Ofgem. Meanwhile, our price freeze for a fixed, defined and specific period of 20 months will protect consumers whilst we push through these vital reforms, saving the average household £120.

Tom Greatrex is shadow energy minister and Labour MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West

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Is there such a thing as responsible betting?

Punters are encouraged to bet responsibly. What a laugh that is. It’s like encouraging drunks to get drunk responsibly, to crash our cars responsibly, murder each other responsibly.

I try not to watch the commercials between matches, or the studio discussions, or anything really, before or after, except for the match itself. And yet there is one person I never manage to escape properly – Ray Winstone. His cracked face, his mesmerising voice, his endlessly repeated spiel follow me across the room as I escape for the lav, the kitchen, the drinks cupboard.

I’m not sure which betting company he is shouting about, there are just so many of them, offering incredible odds and supposedly free bets. In the past six years, since the laws changed, TV betting adverts have increased by 600 per cent, all offering amazingly simple ways to lose money with just one tap on a smartphone.

The one I hate is the ad for BetVictor. The man who has been fronting it, appearing at windows or on roofs, who I assume is Victor, is just so slimy and horrible.

Betting firms are the ultimate football parasites, second in wealth only to kit manufacturers. They have perfected the capitalist’s art of using OPM (Other People’s Money). They’re not directly involved in football – say, in training or managing – yet they make millions off the back of its popularity. Many of the firms are based offshore in Gibraltar.

Football betting is not new. In the Fifties, my job every week at five o’clock was to sit beside my father’s bed, where he lay paralysed with MS, and write down the football results as they were read out on Sports Report. I had not to breathe, make silly remarks or guess the score. By the inflection in the announcer’s voice you could tell if it was an away win.

Earlier in the week I had filled in his Treble Chance on the Littlewoods pools. The “treble” part was because you had three chances: three points if the game you picked was a score draw, two for a goalless draw and one point for a home or away win. You chose eight games and had to reach 24 points, or as near as possible, then you were in the money.

“Not a damn sausage,” my father would say every week, once I’d marked and handed him back his predictions. He never did win a sausage.

Football pools began in the 1920s, the main ones being Littlewoods and Vernons, both based in Liverpool. They gave employment to thousands of bright young women who checked the results and sang in company choirs in their spare time. Each firm spent millions on advertising. In 1935, Littlewoods flew an aeroplane over London with a banner saying: Littlewoods Above All!

Postwar, they blossomed again, taking in £50m a year. The nation stopped at five on a Saturday to hear the scores, whether they were interested in football or not, hoping to get rich. BBC Sports Report began in 1948 with John Webster reading the results. James Alexander Gordon took over in 1974 – a voice soon familiar throughout the land.

These past few decades, football pools have been left behind, old-fashioned, low-tech, replaced by online betting using smartphones. The betting industry has totally rebooted itself. You can bet while the match is still on, trying to predict who will get the next goal, the next corner, the next throw-in. I made the last one up, but in theory you can bet instantly, on anything, at any time.

The soft sell is interesting. With the old football pools, we knew it was a remote flutter, hoping to make some money. Today the ads imply that betting on football somehow enhances the experience, adds to the enjoyment, involves you in the game itself, hence they show lads all together, drinking and laughing and putting on bets.

At the same time, punters are encouraged to do it responsibly. What a laugh that is. It’s like encouraging drunks to get drunk responsibly, to crash our cars responsibly, murder each other responsibly. Responsibly and respect are now two of the most meaningless words in the football language. People have been gambling, in some form, since the beginning, watching two raindrops drip down inside the cave, lying around in Roman bathhouses playing games. All they’ve done is to change the technology. You have to respect that.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 05 February 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's war