Blackout warnings from energy bosses a ‘bluff’ say public

By Ian Dunt and Adam Bienkov

The public do not believe threats from energy bosses that Ed Miliband's plans to freeze energy bills would cause blackouts, a new poll has found.

Six in ten voters say energy companies are "bluffing" about power cuts while just 27% say the risk of power cuts could increase, according to YouGov.

Labour voters are the least convinced with 75% saying they do not believe the warnings issued by energy bosses.

A majority of Liberal Democrat and Ukip voters also dismiss the threats.

However, Conservative supporters are more divided with around half saying Miliband's policy could increase the risk of power cuts

The poll suggests that the apolcolyptic warnings from energy bosses, government figures and a number of newspapers this week have failed to get through to voters.

Earlier this week energy bosses warned that the plans would cause "economic vandalism" while energy secretary Ed Davey said they would risk "widespread blackouts" across the UK.

However there are signs that both energy bosses and the government are rowing back from their criticism of Miliband's proposals.

One energy company is already offering their consumers a price freeze until 2017 under the slogan: "Why wait for Ed? Fix your energy prices now until March 2017"

Meanwhile education secretary Michael Gove said that Miliband had been right to challenge energy firms on rising prices.

Gove admitted that Miliband had been "absolutely right" to say energy prices were too high while appearing on the BBC's Question Time last night.

Asked if he believed energy firm claims that there could be blackouts, he replied: "I do take what they say with a pinch of salt actually.

"The way in which the major energy companies have behaved in the past does not give me confidence in everything that they say."

He added: "One thing that Ed Miliband did get right is that the energy prices at the moment are too high."

"He's absolutely right to draw attention to one of the worst examples of the way in which people's cost of living is under attack.

"He is also I think right to draw attention to the fact that the behaviour of the six power companies hasn't been entirely admirable ever since they've had a chance to be able to play the market in the way they have,"

However, he said the two year price freeze was "not as well thought through as it should be".

He added: "I don't think that this answer really, so far as we can see at the moment, is a necessary and proportionate way of dealing with it."

The sympathetic Conservative rhetoric around the energy policy contrasts sharply with the response from Tory HQ immediately after the speech, when it painted the policy as a return to the hard-left policies of Labour during the 1970s.

It suggests that senior Conservative figures are nervous about attacking the policy too strongly give its popularity among members of the public.

The absence of sustained Tory attacks on the policy has left Miliband facing challenges from the energy companies and elements of his own party.

Yesterday Peter Mandelson warned the policy showed the party was moving "backwards", but other Blairites, including Alistair Campbell, slapped down the former business secretary.