Here in Scotland it was recently the season for Burns’ supper celebrations. In case you haven’t had the pleasure, the haggis, neeps, and tatties are usually accompanied by whisky (preferably lashings thereof) and readings of the native bard’s poems.
I cannot hear the poem “To A Mouse”, and in particular the lines “the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men, gang aft agley”, without being reminded of a notable highlight in PG Wodehouse’s “Jeeves in the Offing”.
The inevitable failure of a typically hare-brained scheme leaves its unfortunate protagonist, Bertram Wooster (or “Bertie” to his friends, among them “Kipper”!), commiserating with Kipper, as he rues,
“I don’t know if you know the meaning of the word agley, Kipper, but that, to put it in a nutshell, is the way things have ganged.”
Among the Conservative party’s “best laid schemes”, we saw the party abandon their free market mantra by voting in favour of a price cap on home energy bills.
Notwithstanding the price cap, the Conservatives remain staunch proponents of free markets when compared to Labour’s stance on utility nationalisation. Presumably, in the Tory party view, the real issue of concern to consumers was one of affordability, not of ownership.
Under the cap, the maximum monetary value that UK consumers are charged on the default Standard Variable Tariff is set (and periodically reviewed) by market regulator Ofgem. The price cap has now been in place for just over a month, and it is widely expected that this Thursday Ofgem will move to increase the cap by around £100.
A wave of smaller operators going bust, combined with job losses at Innogy’s UK subsidiary Npower, suggest all is not rosy in the capped-price world of UK energy supply. A rise in the cap is likely to be a difficult sell to the electorate, but it may be viewed by Ofgem as the most prudent approach. Against rising wholesale costs for suppliers, it is hard to argue that smaller operators going bust reflects an effectively functioning marketplace.
The rise in the cap level will doubtless counteract much of the positive spin from the introduction of the cap at the start of the year. Here as elsewhere, reality bites.
When it comes to the energy price cap, agley appears to be the way things have ganged.