I am amazed at the critical coverage that David Cameron is getting in the Tory press for starting a fuel crisis, when tanker drivers are not even on strike. Sure it is inconvenient, but anyone with half a brain should see exactly what Camerons game is. At the moment, tanker drivers are working normally. Forecourts are running out of petrol, so there is plenty of overtime to be had by the drivers. Very useful considering they may lose a few days pay when they strike. By getting everyone to have a full tank, Cameron has ensured that it will take a couple of weeks of striking before there is any real effect at all. The panic is all about breaking the strike and ensuring it is ineffective.
There is another side to it as well. One which will give David Cameron another victory. Great Britain is teetering towards recession. This is defined as successive quarters where the economy shrinks. All economic activity is fed into computers at the treasury and that determines how much the economy has grown or shrunk. One of the biggest figures in the math is the amount of fuel sales. Given that the panic has moved a couple of weeks worth of economic activity from April to March (ie from Q2 to Q1), this means that the first quarter will get an unexpected boost. If the economy was marginally in negative growth for Q1, this could well push it back out of recession, albiet on a technicality. It may well be that Q2 is worse as a result, but as the technical criteria for recession is successive quarters, has David Cameron managed to avert the bad headlines with a "cunning plan".
You may say "why bother". Well, it's down to politics. If Boris loses the Mayoral election in May, then that will be a huge black mark over Cameron. It is clear that if the economy is in recession, after two years of George Osborne's policies, this will not help Boris. If the economy "unexpectedly" grows, then Boris can claim "green shoots" and pretend that Osborne's policies are working.
Would Cameron be so Machiavellian to spark a crisis to help the election chances of Boris? Well I can't remember a Government ever encouraging panic buying before. So as you sit in your car, queuing for petrol, reading your BackBoris leaflet, just make sure you remember who to thank, when the economy figures are released.