If I was a betting man (which I'm not), I'd say we've got a 70% chance of getting the planned 3p litre rise in duty planned for January deferred. A brave prediction you say, but FairFuel's meeting with Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to The Treasury, went very well indeed. Alexander is a politician with an economics background and rural constituency who clearly understands what high fuel costs do to remote communities and struggling businesses. Unlike so many other MPs and Ministers he didn't trot out the usual dreary stuff about appeasing 'motoring groups' or 'concessions for car drivers', but simply understood that raising duty means raising the prices of nearly everything we do and buy in the UK.
And he accepted our ground-breaking report from the National Institute for Economic and Social Research with enthusiasm, promising to give it an urgent priority and then put us in front of a panel of Treasury experts to field their questions on our methodology and modelling. Protest groups don't usually get such hospitality, access or engagement. In fact I'd say FairFuelUK's meeting was the closest any fuel duty campaign has ever got to Treasury decision makers. More significant still, nobody at any stage said that we'd got our sums wrong. We were all struck by the openness and genuine interest in our figures. Mind you, no one made any promises - you don't get that in politics - but our figures do stand scrutiny and I get the feeling that there's a real acceptance that this government is beginning to understand that they need to look at fuel duty in a different way.
Some may say we're being too polite and that we should roll out the barricades, but in a post 911 World that's not viable. The only way to change government thinking is to stun them with irrefutable numbers. Risking 35,000 jobs and reducing GDP is too high a price to pay for raising fuel duty, especially given that we're seeing the first tentative signs of a possible recovery. And risking a hike in interest rates, which would cost yet another 20,000 jobs, would be nothing short of insane.
These incontrovertible numbers (which The Treasury are going through as we speak) are what gives me the optimism to make my prediction that we may not see diesel pushed over the £1.50 barrier in January after all.
And let's not forget that FairFuelUK has been instrumental in convincing the government to hold back on 10p worth of duty rises, saving the UK economy £5 billion is needless extra fuel spend. Engaging with politicians like Danny Alexander is the best and most effective way of changing Treasury thinking. Fingers crossed.
The full report and its findings can be downloaded at: http://www.fairfueluk.com/niesr_report.html