Almost three in four Tory voters support the idea of taking the energy companies back into public ownership on a temporary basis if they can’t keep control of bills, a new poll has found.
There is also huge support for Sir Keir Starmer’s policy of an energy price cap freeze this winter, with 85 per cent of Tory voters and 90 per cent of Labour voters in favour in the Opinium survey.
While Starmer has ruled out public ownership, despite former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown’s call for temporary nationalisation of the giants if they fail to cut energy bills.
But Brown’s proposal – for the state to take control of energy “until the crisis is over” – is popular with voters of all parties, according to the poll commissioned by the 38 Degrees campaign group.
Some 72 per cent of Tory and Liberal Democrat voters are in favour of temporarily nationalising the energy giants, while 82 per cent of Labour voters back the idea.
A recent Survation poll – commissioned by the We Own It campaign group – found widespread support for nationalisation of both energy and water companies.
Some 62.1 per cent of people of Tory voters at the last election supported energy being publicly owned again, while 65.7 per cent of all voters want the companies re-nationalised.
But Sir Keir has rejected the idea of taking control of energy firms. “If you go down the nationalisation route, then money has to be spent on compensating shareholders,” he said on Monday as he outlined his £29bn plan to freeze the cap on energy bills through October and January.
“I think in an emergency like this, a national emergency where people are struggling to pay their bills, I think that the right choice is for every single penny to go to reducing those bills,” he said.
Tory leadership favourite Liz Truss branded Labour’s proposal – partly paid for through an expended windfall tax on oil and gas – as “sticking plasters” on Britain’s energy problems.
Truss, who has refused to commit to extra financial support on energy bills if she wins, said on Tuesday that she did not like “arbitrary” windfall taxes, as she vowed to focus on tax cuts and boosting energy supply.
Starmer said “the zombie government are producing absolutely no plan” to deal with the cost of living crisis, with energy bills set to rocket to more than £3,500 when the price cap is increased in October – before rising again to £4,200 at January’s price cap rise.
“The overwhelming majority of Brits want a ban on rising energy prices in October; low income families given money they need to make it through and – if needed – energy companies brought into public ownership,” said 38 Degrees’ Ellie Gellard.
She added: “You don’t often see polling results send a message as stark as this – sent as loudly from the Conservatives own voters as the rest of the country. As the leading candidate for PM… It’s time [Truss] listened to the people she hopes to represent in three weeks’ time.”
A new Ipsos poll found that 66 per cent of people think the government is not providing enough help on soaring living costs, while only 28 per cent think current measures are about right, or too much.
“The vast majority don’t think the current government are doing enough and are looking for bold action,” said Chris Curtis, head of political polling at Opinium. “Ultimately, the biggest threat to the Conservative’s parliamentary majority is inaction in the face of this crisis.”
The latest calls for action on energy bills come as the latest YouGov survey showed that one in six people (16 per cent) have been regularly skipping meals to save money during the cost of the living crisis.
People who voted Labour were more likely to have gone without, with 20 per cent skipping meals compared with 9 per cent of Tory voters.