October 2013: In the most recent of his weekly columns in the Daily Telegraph, the Mayor relates a story of a meeting he had with Labour leader Ed Miliband a few years ago, when Ed was the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. The Mayor’s account is in part a response to the announcement Mr Miliband made at last week’s Labour Party Conference that, if Labour were to come into government after the 2015 general election, they would enact a 18 month ‘energy price freeze’ on energy company tariffs.
The Mayor account prove interesting reading: “I don’t think I have ever told you about my last official meeting with Ed Miliband. I must have somehow blanked it out, as one of those experiences that is just too harrowing to relate. It took place a few years ago, and my City Hall team was very excited in the run-up. We had an absolute corker of a plan, you see. We had the spreadsheets, the data, the options – and all we really needed was for Government to get behind it, and make sure that London got its fair share of the funding.
“We were going to launch a huge drive to improve the energy efficiency in the capital’s homes. We were going to hit all sorts of nails pretty smartly on the head: we were going to cut CO₂ emissions, and thereby stop the polar bears from plopping off the ice floes. We were going to cut NO₂ emissions from our noisome old boilers, and so improve air quality. We were going to help get thousands of people into work as retro-fitters – people who went around helping to insulate homes.
“As I told my team during the preparations, Britain might be lagging in some respects, but once our programme was under way we would certainly not be lagging in lagging. Above all, we were going to achieve the number one objective of the scheme: we were going to help cut the cost of heating people’s homes and help stabilise fuel bills.
“I was interested in the plan as a way of helping the planet and helping people in tough times. As for Ed – well, it was, frankly, a bit disheartening. He wasn’t remotely interested. He didn’t want to talk about retro-fitting and, as I gabbled away about a new legion of “boiler bunnies” bouncing up to your door, I was aware that a deep tranquillity had settled on the minister.
“He didn’t want to talk about cutting the cost of living. He just wanted to trade jokes about the forthcoming general election; and as one of my team put it later: “He was only vaguely in command of his brief and had no interest in achieving anything.” We wrote a long and optimistic follow-up letter, hoping that perhaps he had been taking it in. Nada. Not a peep.”
It would be great to read a response from the Labour leader of his account of this meeting…but it seems unlikely that one will be forthcoming anytime soon. It is true that national governments – of all political persuasions – have neglected to provide the tools to London-government to exploit in full its carbon-saving and sustainable energy potential. And a recent letter from the Secretary of State for Energy to the Mayor suggests a similar indifference continues today…