Fuel crisis: But they said 'don't panic'

Out-of-use petrol pumps More people have topped up their tanks - but did the government spread panic?

So who says the government isn't getting its message across?

In the past few days they've succeeded in getting people to buy almost twice as much petrol as they were last week.

That was their aim - as I wrote in yesterday's post - so that the impact of strikes could be minimised.

There is, of course, just one one small fly in the ointment. There are now queues, petrol station closures and angry motorists despite the fact that there are no, well, strikes.

Their "don't panic" message produced what you and I might call panic.

But is it time for the Tory Party to panic? There are certainly good reasons for them to be very concerned.

  • There are a lot of things which excite huge interest among politicians and journalists in Westminster but which raise barely a flicker of interest amongst most voters. Petrol and pasties are two exceptions to that. Presiding over a panic about one and a price rise of the other is very bad politics
  • The petrol and pasty crisis is being fuelled - or should that be heated up - by The Sun - Britain's biggest newspaper, which now has a proprietor who's got it in for David Cameron
  • A week of tax cuts for the rich, £250,000 donor dinners, tax rises for those whose idea of a good lunch is a hot pasty, pie or sausage roll, and talk of jerrycans and garages has undermined the Conservatives "we're all in it together" rhetoric
  • These self-inflicted mistakes have shown not just a lack of political nous behind the scenes but a lack of decent frontmen who look and sound like they live in the world occupied by most voters
  • Ed Miliband has been given the chance to look statesmanlike and - even when at a pasty-chomping photo opportunity - he's taken it

All this, of course, is what happens to governments. It's why we used to speak of governments having mid-term blues. These moments pass.

What should, perhaps, worry them more is the signs - far from definitive - that the economy is flatlining.

With or without a tanker drivers strike, petrol could turn into one of the key stories of the year. Fears of an Israeli conflict with Iran could drive up oil prices, prices at the pump and end hopes of an economic recovery.

Now that really would be something to panic about.

Nick Robinson, Political editor Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    We really do need to get rid of these jokers. We've got a bunch of schoolboys running the country and there's going to be big trouble when the parents get home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    We have all just had the biggest lesson of all "how not to run a country" he has caused much suffering and hardship to many while the tory's try to push through a silent pay rise to themselves. One point this government is not is Fairness to all care to stand on the steps of number 10 now Mr Cameron and repeat the words "ALL IN THIS TOGETHER"

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Ed Miliband looks more like Borat every time I see him. All he needs is a tash.

    You could practically see his fins flapping in Greggs. Ed Balls looked at home though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Oh, and you are not peeing gasoline onto the flames, right? Nick you usually have the knack of staying on the safe side of the razor thin line, but you have strayed just a little over it, and that both disappoints and concerns me. You have intervened every bit as badly as you would have us believe the Tories have.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    This is going to sound cynical and a conspiracy theory, but let's think this through. 1. The Chancellor decided to press ahead with a fuel duty rise as planned despite the already enormous cost of fuel. 2. The Government decides to play hard ball with the unions representing the tanker drivers. 3. More fuel bought now is more fuel duty levied. 4. Oh look, it's the end of a financial year. Cynical?


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