ON Thursday, the penny finally dropped for the last person in Britain left unaware that households were facing a generational cost of living crisis.

For months the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, stood idly by while food and energy prices soared. I first wrote about the need to combat spiralling energy costs in this paper in October. Yet the Chancellor on three occasions – the autumn budget in October, his February announcement, and March Spring Statement – failed to grasp that people across the UK were experiencing the largest squeeze on their living standards since the 1950s.

His bungled, tone-deaf Spring Statement placed the country on a track to widespread destitution, food bank use, and forecasts that 40 per cent of households could enter fuel poverty this year. The Government was proven to be both out of touch and cruel.

The contrast with Labour simply couldn’t be clearer. The Government has had to be dragged kicking and screaming to back Labour’s sensible plan to tax the energy companies who are treating the British people as a cashpoint. Sadly, while the Chancellor dithered, the cost of living crisis only worsened.

My Labour colleagues and I first called for this approach 139 days ago. Why? Because we don’t need to spend half-a-million pounds on focus groups to understand the difficulties ordinary people face – because we are on your side.

Since Labour first called for a windfall tax, the Government has ordered its MPs to vote against the proposal three times, once as recently as last week. Tories called the plan a “sensationalist idea solely for the headlines” yet this week the Chancellor, all out of ideas, has decided to follow Labour and the British people who overwhelmingly back this move.

That the Chancellor has suddenly U-turned shows in the detail of his plan. Despite our reliance on expensive gas being the major cause of the cost of living crisis, energy companies can avoid this tax by investing in fossil fuel extraction, making our longer-term dependence on fossil fuels worse and ignoring the climate crisis.

The Government could have used the tax system to incentivise major investment in cheaper sources of renewable electricity such as on and offshore wind or to subsidise home insulation and energy efficiency to reduce household bills. Instead, the polluter will not pay but will be actively encouraged to create carbon dioxide to keep their cash. A greenhouse gas get-out clause.

I have been calling for an emergency budget because of the range and scale of problems within our economy. The Chancellor’s package of measures may treat the symptoms, but it won’t treat the causes of the problems people in County Durham are facing. We must transition to cheaper renewable energy, but we must also tackle low wages which have stagnated for a decade and left households vulnerable to rising prices.

Gaps in this support package will also leave families with two or more children more exposed to price rises. While the lack of support for businesses, big and small, will mean their energy costs continue to rise and be passed on in the price of the goods we all buy. The coming weeks and months will remain difficult for many households, and that’s why we need a decisive Labour government which will make the right decisions at the right time.