IT was perhaps always inevitable that, if we waited around long enough, even the current Conservative Government would grasp just one key economic reality.

In recent days, we have had Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi declare there is a “national economic emergency” in the UK.

There is indeed such an emergency, with energy prices for households and businesses having spiralled out of control and the harbingers of recession becoming ever clearer.

The Bank of England forecast earlier this month that the UK economy would enter recession from the fourth quarter of this year.

And there has been a slew of further dire news on the economy since then.

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In any emergency, swift action is crucial.

However, for some reason, as the Chancellor was declaring an “emergency”, meaningful action from the Tories was conspicuous by its absence in the wake of regulator Ofgem announcing the energy price cap would increase to £3,549 per year for dual fuel for an average household from October 1.

This, as many people will be all too aware, is 80% higher than the £1,971 per year figure that applied from April 1, which was itself a 54% increase on the £1,277 cap which was in place previously.

And the price caps currently projected to apply from January 1 and April 1 next year are far, far higher than that to be implemented from October 1.

As the UK economy teeters on the brink of renewed recession, confidence will be an important factor in mitigating the albeit inevitably deep economic trouble.

However, confidence was in very short supply indeed, even before Ofgem’s confirmation of the new price cap last Friday triggered further major financial anxiety.

What is required to bolster it, clearly, is an adequate response from the Conservative Government to show that it, like other administrations in Europe, has an understanding of the scale of the energy price problem. French President Emmanuel Macron has been among those who have taken swift, decisive action, to the great benefit of his country’s citizens.

A concrete indication from the Tories about what they plan to do to mend the colossal hole in household finances caused by the surge in the so-called energy price cap, immediately and over the next couple of years, would be some kind of a start.

However, even that was not forthcoming last Friday.

Part of the reason it failed to come, seemingly, was because the Tories are focused inward on their leadership debate, the result of which will not be revealed until September 5.

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So, while households have fretted on Friday, over the weekend and into this week about the hike in the energy price cap and the possibility of far worse to come, there has been nothing at all of substance from the Conservatives about what they are actually going to do about it. Mr Zahawi, while bandying about potential options without being able to say even in broad terms what the new leader might do, talked about people looking at their energy consumption. If that is viewed as a key part of the solution, we should be very concerned indeed.

Ofgem, for its part, seemed in no doubt that something major had to be done.

Jonathan Brearley, chief executive of Ofgem, said: “The government support package is delivering help right now, but it’s clear the new prime minister will need to act further to tackle the impact of the price rises that are coming in October and next year.

“We are working with ministers, consumer groups and industry on a set of options for the incoming prime minister that will require urgent action. The response will need to match the scale of the crisis we have before us. With the right support in place and with regulator, government, industry and consumers working together, we can find a way through this.”

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Belatedly, after the radio silence from the UK Government on next steps in the wake of the Ofgem announcement sparked extreme frustration, we had Boris Johnson declare that whoever succeeded him as prime minister would announce “another huge package of financial support”.

However, what this support might be remains impossible to tell. And, given Mr Johnson’s generally rambunctious style, who knows whether a “huge package” of support means the same thing to him as it does to others.

The type of leadership vacuum we are seeing right now in the Conservative Government would be inconceivable even in the most shambolic or trouble-torn stock market-listed company. It is a truly remarkable state of affairs.

Tory leadership contest favourite Liz Truss, if the sounds emanating from her camp are as reported, appears to continue to fail spectacularly to grasp the scale of the blow to household finances from the surge in energy prices.

She continues to talk about tax cuts, when what the next prime minister should be doing is providing across-the-board help to UK households which adequately covers the extraordinary increase in energy bills.

This could be done through increasing massively the £400 discount being provided through bills or a solution of the type put forward by ScottishPower chief executive Keith Anderson to freeze the energy price cap with huge financial backing from the UK Government.

Former chancellor Rishi Sunak, the other Tory leadership contender, seems a bit more aware of the fact that direct help will be needed, although what he provided in the spring to deal with the April hike in the price cap and what was coming next was inadequate.

A closely watched survey published earlier this month by pollster GfK showed UK consumer confidence had declined to a fresh record low in August. GfK’s consumer confidence index dropped by a further three points to -44 – the worst reading since comparable records began in 1974.

Joe Staton, client strategy director of GfK, said: “With headline after headline revealing record inflation eroding household buying power, the strain on the personal finances of many in the UK is alarming. Just making ends meet has become a nightmare and the crisis of confidence will only worsen with the darkening days of autumn and the colder months of winter.”

This is the stark reality of the situation in the UK. It is a reality that should be more than plain to the ruling Conservatives.

However, as the Tories continue their contest to decide who will be the next prime minister, and the staggering leadership vacuum prevails, households are being kept entirely in the dark about what this winter and subsequent months will bring.

This Tory dithering and failure to come up quickly with an adequate response threatens further already extremely fragile confidence. And it raises the spectre of a recession that will be much deeper than it would have been with some proper leadership, like that shown by Mr Macron.