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

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