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7 October 2022

Warnings of winter blackouts overshadow Liz Truss’s energy price cap

The UK faces a potential series of power cuts in the coming months, yet the cabinet remains divided.

By Freddie Hayward

The government has refused to rule out blackouts this winter after the National Grid warned that households could lose power for up to three hours if gas supplies run low.

If households go without power, it will be the latest example of a broken promise from Liz Truss, and would further undermine her authority. During the leadership campaign the Prime Minister promised there would be no blackouts this winter. But yesterday she would not repeat that guarantee, merely saying, “There’s always more we can do.”

Even when faced with the risk of blackouts, the cabinet remains divided. Reports suggest that Downing Street has rejected plans from Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Business and Energy Secretary, for a government information campaign to encourage people to reduce their energy use. As Truss made clear in her conference speech, she doesn’t think the state should be in the business of giving the public advice. Internal strife was never going to stay in Birmingham.

Politically, the prospect of blackouts threatens to overshadow the government’s huge energy price guarantee. Since the fiasco of the fiscal statement, Liz Truss has tried to convince markets and voters that the price cap was the key part of the package. That strategy has been completely undermined by the chaotic messaging from her cabinet. Much as Rishi Sunak didn’t feel he received credit for his interventions to help people with the cost of living, Truss’s package hasn’t received the attention she would have liked. That is likely to remain the case – gratitude won’t be the primary emotion of those who are left sitting in the dark this winter.   

This piece first appeared in the Morning Call newsletter; subscribe here.

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[See also: What could energy rationing in the UK look like?]

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