Labor is planning a campaign blitz to take ownership of its new fuel price cap policy if the next Tory leader bows to pressure and scraps an expected 80% rise in October.
Keir Stormer has vowed to “not let people pay a penny more” on their gas and electricity bills this winter, proposing to freeze the price cap at current levels and prevent the average household bill from reaching £3,600.
Senior sources said the party had limited time to get its message out before the next Tory leader, expected to be Liz Truss, enters No 10. The new Prime Minister will have to produce a comprehensive package on the cost of living, explaining how they will help beyond tax cuts despite the Truss’ rejection.
Labor will step up efforts to promote its policy in the coming days, including digital ads, campaign tools for local parties and direct mail for MPs to use. Plans for a summer invasion have been in the works since mid-July.
In the coming weeks, the party will set out more on its energy policy offering, including plans to upgrade 19m homes to make them more energy efficient, double onshore and offshore wind capacity and triple solar.
Labour’s plan, which is partly funded by an expanded windfall tax, is a fundamental approach needed to help families and reduce inflation, Starmer said, contrasting the “lame duck” government’s inaction.
“We asked ourselves: Do we want a plan that allows those prices to rise, that creates anxiety, and discounts some people after the event, but does nothing about inflation, or do we want to be more radical, more bold, more ambitious?” He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“One of the benefits of our proposal is that it will reduce inflation, which will benefit everyone, but especially the most vulnerable and the least well off.”
Sources close to Starmer will have to adapt party conference plans to those announced in the first weeks of the new prime minister’s office, especially if there is an initial emergency budget.
Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, an economics think tank, questioned whether Labour’s plan would help inflation too much, saying rates would rise again once the fuel subsidy ends.
Stormer will visit marginal seats across the country in the coming fortnight, while the shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, will visit Scotland to outline how Labour’s plans compare with the SNP’s.
“We’re working with the assumption that Liz Truss is going to make a big contribution on energy – we think what she says now is fairly different to what she does,” a senior Labor source said. “They do something politically important. So we have to make sure we look like we’re winning the argument now.
Senior Labor politicians step up calls for Tory candidates to set out their plans faster. Ahead of Scotland’s first Conservative hustings in Perth on Tuesday evening, Ed Miliband, the shadow climate change secretary, called on candidates to match their cost-of-living packages ahead of the price cap announcement on August 26.
“If it’s a banking crisis, the government will act. If it’s a war, the government will act,” he said. “Tonight, at their hustings, the candidates must immediately make clear whether they agree with Labour’s proposals. And if not, what their alternative proposals are. The British people deserve answers, distracted and out of touch.” There will be no further delay from a Conservative government.
Momentum, a left-wing grassroots group often at loggerheads with Stormer, released a statement on Monday night backing Labour’s plan, although it said it should extend to full nationalisation.
Momentum co-chair Hilary Sann said: “Labour must argue for public ownership, a fraction of the price. It’s a commonsense solution, supported by the majority of voters and the best way to keep bills down.
Reeves told TalkTV on Monday night that he was skeptical of full-scale nationalisation, although he did not think the energy sector was “working today”.
He said: “The whole point of the package we’ve put together today is that every penny of it goes straight to reducing people’s bills.”
Stormer has faced criticism for the time Labor has taken to roll out his plan. A week ago the Liberal Democrats said fuel price cap rises should be halted and former Labor prime minister Gordon Brown set out his own plan for the crisis.
Stormer told BBC One’s Breakfast program that his team had been working on the project for more than six weeks. He said: “I’m not going to apologize for going on holiday with my children. This is the first time we’ve had a real holiday in almost three years.