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Our political editor Paul Francis gives reaction to energy crisis, Labour policies and Eurostar

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THE volatile nature of politics has been vividly illustrated by the speed with which the energy crisis has unfolded. Last week, the debate was centred on gas bills and the higher costs to the consumer.

This week, it moved on to a full-on crisis as a series of smaller energy providers collapsed, supplies to supermarkets were interrupted and we learned just how important CO2 was to manufacturers and farmers.

Some pumps have run dry Picture: iStock
Some pumps have run dry Picture: iStock

As the government urged the public not to panic buy, snaking queues outside petrol stations grew longer and longer while supermarket shelves grew emptier and emptier. The more politicians said ‘don’t panic’ the more the public has done just that.

It all adds up to a fear among some Conservatives that a combination of tricky issues, including the scrapping of the £20 extra on Universal Credit payments, could lead the government into a winter of discontent.

It was left to the Kent MP Damian Green to deliver a cold dose of reality, warning: "There's the possibility of very, very difficult times ahead for hundreds of thousands of people."

On the fuel front, the transport minister Grant Shapps has ruled out - at least for the moment - any plans for a short-term visa scheme to address the shortage of hauliers.

This is probably going to mean a U-turn. The more a politician insists something is not going to happen the more likely it is to happen.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer Picture: PA/Aaron Chown
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer Picture: PA/Aaron Chown

PERHAPS predictably, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has drawn mixed reviews over a 35-page pamphlet he has written setting out his vision for the country under a Labour government.

Why? We live at a time when political discourse is conducted largely through sound bites and slogans - the briefer the better - which often add very little to our understanding of not just what the parties are committed to but how they would implement any policy pledge.

This evasive style of politics is best illustrated at Prime Minister's Questions, the weekly duel in which the victor is the one who has been least damaged.

The sparring this week followed a familiar pattern but the two protagonists were Angela Rayner for Labour and Dominic Raab, ex-foreign secretary.

It was refreshing to have a couple of understudies on the political stage. And the consensus was that Rayner got the best of her opponent.

She threw in several pre-prepared zingers about the now infamous holiday Raab was on in Crete when the Afghan crisis began, which even raised a chuckle from Raab.

Perhaps we should have more PMQs featuring substitutes?

A Eurostar train. Picture: Nathan Gallagher
A Eurostar train. Picture: Nathan Gallagher

EUROSTAR’S announcement that it was now not expecting to resume services that stopped at either Ashford or Ebbsfleet until 2023 at the earliest ought to be of concern to the government but as things stand, ministers have said very little.

Is it prepared to intervene in the way the French government has acted and look into options for some kind of state support?

At the moment it seems unlikely. Probably because it would expose the government to claims that propping up the services through some kind of state aid would be ideologically inconsistent.

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