Simon English: How long before M&S is past its sell-by date?

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The Independent Online

What's the point of Marks & Spencer? To chief executive Marc Bolland, the point is pay of £2.5m this year alone. And some extras, doubtless, later. Free M&S clothes perhaps. He dresses in little else. For the press spinners at M&S, £2.5m is barely chicken feed. On the basis it is less than he got a year ago. Uh huh.

For the rest of us, there seems little to keep us in the stores, beyond brand loyalty and those nice Christmas adverts. Also Twiggy is a national treasure, etc. One shopper's views: the clothes suck and the food looks better than it tastes.

Plainly, that's still a minority opinion: most of middle Britain continues to think M&S is a must shopping destination, albeit one in a supposedly permanent state of decline, like the England football team, or Michael Parkinson.

But M&S's status cannot be a perpetual thing in defiance of performance. Mr Bolland, a food man (his reorganisation of Morrisons was brilliant) who just happens to look suave in nice suits, is not obviously the man to return this business to former glories, but then perhaps no one can. M&S investors and customers noticing that the food in Morrisons is now as good as M&S sells but cheaper may be tempted to switch their holding/loyalty.

On the clothes front, you can buy M&S non-iron shirts without an M&S brand label online for a third of the price (note to M&S corporate affairs: put the phone down, I am wearing the evidence).

Which raises the question of what the company's long-term future may be. It's good for a few years for sure. Mr Bolland's pension is solid (wipes sweat from brow in relief).

Will Marks & Spencer still exist in 20 years' time? It is hard to say for sure that it will. It may need a radically new plan.

Bank's vote saves face at our expense

The Bank of England's Governor, Sir Mervyn King, calls in the Monetary Policy Committee to discuss what to do about interest rates and whether to inject more money-printing quantitative easing into the economy.

A mere month ago, the nine-man committee had voted 8-1 against, which seemed fair enough. Since then, the economic news has been mostly bad, which suggests the Bank called it wrong.

Maybe David Blanchflower, the former MPC member who called it correctly, was right again. Should they crank up the printing presses again? Or should they stick to their guns, with an eye on jobs at the respected City firm of Deny Everything, Prevaricate & Make Stuff Up?

It was a tough call. Yesterday they kept interest rates and QE on hold.