Energy Bills: No10 In 'Wear A Jumper' Row
Downing Street has been forced to backtrack after suggesting people struggling to pay their heating bills should put on a jumper.
Officials had to issue a clarification after initially saying wrapping up warm to avoid paying more was something people could "consider".
Labour, which has accused the Government of failing to act to address soaring energy prices, leapt on the comment as proof the Tories are "out of touch".
Leader Ed Miliband declared: "Their crime policy used to be 'hug a hoodie'. Now their energy policy appears to be 'wear a hoodie'."
The comment also quickly gained traction on social networking site Twitter, with various comical suggestions under the tag #cameronsheatingtips doing the rounds.
One user wrote: "Have your maid stitch a fine coat of swan feathers after your manservant plucks a swan for Sunday brunch."
Another advised: "Simply add a large measure of Courvoisier VSOP to your Vanilla Latte."
The row will have been exactly what Downing Street was seeking to avoid when it was quizzed about the Prime Minister's views on energy price hikes.
It came after Energy Secretary Ed Davey said on Thursday night that he wears jumpers at home to keep his bills down.
On Friday morning, Mr Cameron's official spokesman was duly asked whether people should "wrap up warm" and wear jumpers in the same way.
He said: "That's not a question that I have asked him. Clearly, he is not going to prescribe necessarily the actions individuals should take about that but if people are giving that advice, that is something that people may wish to consider."
The spokesman added: "His advice to people is to shop around for fuel prices."
Mr Miliband moved to capitalise on what was interpreted as a gaffe, even though No10 had tried to make clear Mr Cameron would not tell people what to wear.
He wrote on the Labour website: "These responses to the energy price rises show how little Mr Cameron and his Government stand up for the interests of hard-working people.
"He has no grip on the cost of living crisis and he seems to think the solution to this crisis is nothing to do with him.
"Energy bills are already up by an average £300 since he took office. The price hikes we are seeing point to a market that isn't working for consumers. Yet his solution to this market failure was to tell people to shop around and dress warmly.
"Of course people will rightly seek the best deal they can find but that will not fix a broken market, and will not bring the kind of relief that consumers and businesses need."
He added: "Never let the Government tell you that there's nothing they can do, or that it's your responsibility to sort out the problems in our energy market. They could act - they just choose not to."
Downing Street later had to issue a clarification, as insiders admitted the spokesman had used "loose language".
It said: "To be clear, it is entirely false to suggest the Prime Minister would advise people they should wear jumpers to stay warm.
"Any suggestion to the contrary is mischief-making. The Prime Minister would point people to a range of things being done to help people with their fuel bills, such as legislating to put everyone on the best tariff for them.
"He believes Labour's "price freeze" policy is a con - and certainly would not advise people on what they should wear."
Energy policy has been thrust to the heart of the political cost of living row after companies started announcing major hikes in prices ahead of the winter.
On Thursday, British Gas became the second of the "Big Six" to announce price increases after SSE led the charge with an 8.2% rise earlier this month.
Mr Cameron described the hike as "disappointing" and he and Mr Davey encouraged customers to switch to a cheaper deal with another firm.
Labour has said it will impose a 20-month freeze on prices if it wins power in 2015 but this has been dismissed by critics, including the Tories, as unworkable.