|Ed and Albert pictured struggling in Energy Policy class|
The answer, despite having only been in Parliament for five years, is quite a lot -- but little of it positive.
Ed's only position of note within government during his short career was as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, a position he was appointed to in October 2008. Just two weeks into that role he suddenly announced that the Government's then target of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 60 percent by 2050 was not ambitious enough and promptly upped it to 80 percent -- one of the highest such targets in the world. At the time this move was welcomed by climate scientists and various green pressure groups, and, who knows, over time it may be be proven to have been the correct decision -- but the fact is that it also had important knock-on effects for British industry which were not so widely trumpeted by the Labour Party. Emissions targets such as this, and the carbon-trading scheme implemented by the EU to help implement them, have effectively made it all but impossible for Europe-based primary metallurgical industries -- such as Anglesey Aluminium -- to remain competitive with similar companies operating in Russia, China, or India. A target of 80 percent reductions in emissions indicated that energy prices would almost certainly rise in the future -- not good news for an energy-hungry company such as Anglesey Aluminium which daily consumed 20 percent of the entire electricity supply in Wales. Ed Miliband had effectively put AAM on notice, and when just three months later the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency informed AAM that the cheap electricity deal on which it depended with the now publicly-owned Wylfa power station would have to be scrapped because of EU legislation preventing government subsidising private companies, there could be no other outcome but the closure of Anglesey Aluminium. Unsurprisingly Anglesey Aluminium was not the only such primary metallurgical company to be forced to close at the same time: the Corus Steelworks in Redcar also folded for almost exactly the same reasons.
One thing however we can half-thank Ed Miliband for is that in setting such an extraordinarily high emissions-cut target, he finally woke himself -- and the Labour party -- to the energy black hole the UK was sleepwalking towards. The fact is most nuclear plants and half of the UK's conventional coal plants are scheduled for closure over the next decade and the Labour Party, whilst in government, had completely taken their eye off the problem -- leading to even Ed Miliband's own department predicting possible energy blackouts by 2015. From this point of view it is illuminating to note that when Ed Miliband was appointed two years ago as the Secretary for State for Energy and Climate Change -- this was the first time in 13 years of Labour rule that there had actually been a full Minister in charge of energy policy. Before then the energy portfolio had been just one minor part of the sprawling Department for Trade and Industry's remit. Furthermore the average tenure of DTI Secretaries of State was just a year and a half meaning that there was little continuity or foresightedness at the top of the department.
No wonder therefore we are currently in the position we are now in Anglesey: hoping against hope for a massive £7 billion investment to build Wylfa B immediately following the largest recession since the 1930s, with a UK government facing the highest ever peacetime levels of public debt, and seemingly entirely at the mercy of internal German politics (see here). Had Labour taken action much earlier during the boom years Wylfa B could have already been in place and the Island's largest private-sector employer, Anglesey Aluminium, may well still have been operating. So, thanks for nothing, Ed.
UPDATE: Just in case you were wondering, this is how Labour Party members in Ynys Môn voted in the leadership contest:
|click to enlarge|
Good to see such overwhelming support for Ed Miliband despite his sterling work in contributing to making Anglesey's largest private-sector employer unviable.