Bashing the 'big six'

Where once politicians lined up to bash the bankers, now they line up to belt the "big six" - the nation's energy firms.

Where once they promised to stop bonuses, now they pledge to curb gas and electricity bills.

The question they know voters are asking is: can you really make a difference and if so how?

The ministers' answer, for now, is greater transparency and competition. They're calling on companies to spell out precisely what is forcing them to hike their prices.

Why - they ask - is British Gas blaming them for the rising costs of green schemes and subsidies for the poor when other companies can meet the same obligations for much less money?

They're examining why it takes so long for people to change suppliers.

Where once they criticised proposals to intervene in the market they now boast of moves to put some customers on the lowest available tariff.

Not good enough, says Labour. They point out that only one in 10 customers benefited from that promise and say that the big six must be forced to re-structure and to have their prices frozen while they do.

In truth politicians of all colours are having to grapple with not one energy crisis but three: rising bills, climate change and the very real threat of blackouts.

It's easy to say that you'll cut bills at the same time as putting pressure on them to rise to pay for greener energy and greater investment in new power stations to stop the lights going out.

If you're the politician who can convince voters you can actually do it you're on to a winner.

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

What a difference a day makes

In just 24 hours, Sir Malcolm Rifkind went from angry defiance to a grim-faced acceptance that he would have to quit his job as an MP and chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee.

Read full article

More on This Story

More from Nick

Features & Analysis

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • BooksNew novels

    BBC Culture takes a look at ten new books to read in March


  • TomatoesClick Watch

    The smart garden that fits inside your house and provides fresh healthy food

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.