The new Prime Minister will be sitting on a financial timebomb - Jayne Dowle

I was talking to a man across the border in Lancaster last week and he told me that to save money on heating this winter he’s considering covering himself with goose fat. That way, he can keep warm and if he should get hungry, he could start to eat himself too.

It was a joke. Or at least I think it was. However, what is definitely not remotely funny is the fact that the absolutely terrifying cost of keeping our rooms warm and the lights on this winter is already causing anxiety in almost every home in the UK.

Except, it would seem, at Westminster where politicians appear more interested in which of the two lacklustre candidates, Richmond MP Rishi Sunak and Leeds-educated Liz Truss will end up as Conservative party leader, and by default PM.

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In the cacophony of arguments that has characterised their televised public debates and the constant arguing back and forth, I haven’t heard either of them – or to be fair, any other politician, from any party – take on board our extremely serious concerns about the cost of living.

The Government has been warned about fuel poverty.The Government has been warned about fuel poverty.
The Government has been warned about fuel poverty.

As Parliament settles into the summer recess, not returning – unless there is an absolute emergency – until September 5, we face our problems alone, with no firm hand on the tiller. It’s fallen instead to consumer champion Martin Lewis to spell it out.

As Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and his deputy Angela Rayner sulk with each other because he’s sacked former shadow transport minister Sam Tarry, who is rumoured to be her boyfriend, for publicly backing RMT-led rail strikes against party orders. Her Majesty’s official Opposition yet again fails to come up to scratch.

And once more, just as RMT leader Mick Lynch did just a month ago, it’s fallen to a non-parliamentary politician to express the direct concerns of voters.

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These last few weeks should have been an absolute open goal for Labour. MPs could seriously have gained ground by highlighting the very pressing cost of living concerns of ordinary people and putting these front and centre of the political agenda.

Yet once again we can only watch as what could and should be a potential government succumb to infighting and scoring points of political order.

In an open letter to the Conservative leadership candidates, Mr Lewis is warning that they need to urgently heed his dire warning, that “the winter coming is going to be bleak. I believe, unless action is taken, we are facing a potential national financial cataclysm”.

Mr Lewis goes on to say to Sunak and Truss that they “need to know how stark things will be on the day they take office”. The evidence so far suggests that perhaps they either do not, or are choosing to ignore it. This is dangerous in the extreme. We’ve just spent three years under a Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, whose entire modus operandi appeared to be based on putting his head in the sand every time a difficult topic popped up.

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I know, he led us through the pandemic. But he had no choice and spent quite a lot of time, if I recall, simply channelling his inner Churchill.

As we are now finding out to our cost, he paid no heed to the potential fiscal aftermath for millions of people caught up in the nightmare that is being created by oil giants refusing to reduce the cost of petrol and diesel and greedy home energy companies ramping up direct debits with barely a thought for how customers are actually going to pay them.

However, he’s gone now – or at least going. And what his potential successors should do, if they hold a shred of moral responsibility, is to stop wasting so much energy (pun half-intended) and address the issues. Promise to intervene with suppliers. Stop pretending that £400 in our bank accounts is going to go much further than one monthly dual fuel direct debit – EDF have just breezily informed me that my already steep £209 monthly payment is about to shoot up to £390. I’m working up the energy to embark on a heated (sorry) debate on Live Chat as to why I’m going to have to refuse to pay this.

I agree with Mr Lewis. I really don’t think our next Prime Minister is taking on the scale of the situation, especially with continued war in the Ukraine.

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Public buildings in Germany are already cutting heating and hot water because Russian gas supplier Gazprom has severed a key pipeline.

We could be facing civil unrest, he warns. We could be facing mass non-payment of bills. We could be facing serious economic failure. This goes beyond household budgets and impacts the entire global economy.

Whoever ends up with the keys to Number 10 on September 10 should know this now. They are, as Mr Lewis points out, sitting on a financial timebomb. And the new Prime Minister, will be the only person in the UK with the power to defuse it. If that doesn’t scare you more than the prospect of eating your own goose fat, I don’t know what will.