Parties battle to be seen as the consumer champion
- 24 January 2014
- From the section UK Politics
Ever since Ed Miliband proposed a two-year freeze on energy prices, he has set himself up as something of a consumer champion.
Just last week, as he announced a radical reform to the banking system, the leader of the opposition said he wanted reform of "every broken market".
Now Newsnight has learnt what his next targets may be. I understand that he is aiming to reform telecoms - both broadband and mobile - as well as water companies and rail.
But this is red hot political territory - and the Conservatives want to be a part of it.
I'm told the battle is firmly on for each party to prove they are the more committed consumer champion. It's fairly easy territory for the Labour Party to inhabit - and it goes with their natural instincts - but it also risks making them seem anti-business if the rhetoric is too heavy handed.
It's less comfortable for the Tories, who would normally be on the supply side, and the Lib Dems in government, who are struggling to communicate the argument and convince people they're on the side of hard-pressed consumers.
My sources tell me that as the politicians fight over this verdant political turf, consumer group Which is being pulled into Number 10 to discuss new ways and ideas to sell the consumer champion idea.
Joe Johnson - Number 10's policy chief - is being advised to go big on an announcement in March after the Competition and Markets Authority reports back from its review of the energy markets.
It's thought the government may choose to restructure the energy market along the same lines as Labour has proposed and ensure that the big six energy firms cannot buy and sell wholesale energy to each other.
This would have the effect of breaking their stranglehold and forcing them to widen the market to smaller, newer players.
However, one area where both Labour and the Conservatives are deafeningly silent is that of public service reform. Will anyone dare take the biggest beast of them all into the ring of the 2015 election?