Guest blogger, Quentin Willson, discusses the hard work behind the campaign that saw George Osborne U-Turn on his decision to increase fuel duty by 3p in August:
Getting the August 3p a litre duty rise postponed took some doing. FairFuelUK boss, Peter Carroll and I wrote to every single MP, lobbied the Treasury, Ministers, the PM, Danny Alexander and Ed Balls. This took weeks and occasionally felt like we were explaining our hobbies to an Easter Island statue. That’s the thing with fuel duty and the oil market – nobody understands it. Too complicated, too arcane. We had to commission (and pay for) an academic report from the Centre for Business and Economic Research that empirically vindicated our central argument – that actually reducing fuel duty stimulates the economy, creates jobs, increases GDP and is revenue neutral. But even armed with such august research, we still felt like we were wrestling with a duvet full of treacle.
Slowly though we got our message across and signed up 50 cross-party MPs who would vote against the government. Then oil went down in price and surprise, surprise, so did inflation. Wise voices said ‘Hang on a minute. Maybe these boys do know what they’re talking about?‘ Our argument was suddenly looking stronger. Then the Chief Secretary of the Treasury, Danny Alexander, asked to see FairFuel and he got it immediately. The following day the rise was officially postponed.
FairFuelUK is now the most successful public protest campaign in the UK and an exemplar that campaigns like ours do work and if you shout loudly enough, (and know what you’re talking about) governments will listen. But spare a thought for George Osborne. This wasn’t an easy decision and the opposition benches are giving him a rough time and talking shambolic U-turns. The man did the right thing and changed his policies because we’re officially in a double-dip recession and the economic ceiling has fallen in. That’s not a U-turn, that’s just good old-fashioned common sense. And when it comes to politics and Westminster, that’s a commodity that’s in alarmingly short supply.
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