There’s no denying that Ed Davey has had a shambolic week. But it’s a shambles not of his making. As Secretary of State for Energy he had to give a statement in the House of Commons today…explaining away earlier comments made by the Prime Minister. Tricky.
Beyond his verbal dexterity in the House, his speech to a Confederation of British Industry audience today also made the news.
The subject matter for his energy speech should be interesting, inspiring and invigorating. Not least because of its topicality. Everyone’s talking about energy price rises.
Yet the Secretary of State’s speech managed to appear dull right from the start:
The CBI has been on a journey, much like Government policy, as both have grappled with how to decarbonise the economy and tackle climate change while ensuring the UK remains competitive and energy affordable.
Would it be possible to throw any more into this sentence?
His speech had weighty matters to consider. It noted how the need for energy infrastructure costs between now and 2020 would represent 50% of all UK infrastructure costs over the period. When the other half is made up of ports, road, rail, crossrail and airports you get a sense of the huge weight of investment needed to keep the lights on.
But weighty matters aside this speech sapped energy from its audience.
The speech brimmed with jargon. We heard about:
- CCS (carbon capture and storage)
- Feed-in Tariff
- Renewables Obligation
- Contracts for Difference
- Capacity Market
And it was awash with a near impenetrable management speak:
Prices will be set administratively, aiming to bring all technology groups down in cost and begin levelling the playing field.
Right. This was passive and indirect speech of the worst kind.
Then there was sloppy speech:
We are talking to EDF about what this can do to help bring forward new nuclear at Hinkley…
Bring forward? Ministers and civil servants can’t make a speech, pronouncement or comment without uttering this phrase.
You might bring forward draft legislation. That’s tolerable.
But when every initiative and proposal is phrased in the same fashion then the meaning is lost. Is this about the timing of a new nuclear plant at Hinkley or the likelihood of it happening at all? There’s a difference, and the audience is not sure.
This was tiresome stuff from the Minister.
His speech failed to reach a solid conclusion when he finished with a recital of the six tests set by the CBI for evaluating electricity market reform. Had he begun with these tests and referenced them throughout his speech this might have proved worthwhile. He didn’t and it wasn’t.