Column Eight: Major takes the crease

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The Independent Online
What's a good way to attract John Major's attention? Talk about cricket. This was the policy adopted by Stuart Hampson, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, when he complained about rivals to his Waitrose food stores opening illegally on Sundays.

'There can be few sights more dispiriting than a Test cricketer refusing to walk when he has been given out by the umpire . . . and yet the Partnership continues to see its competitors refusing to leave the crease,' begins a long letter to the PM.

But Mr Major padded up with a characteristic forward defensive stroke when composing his reply: '. . . It is for local authorities to decide whether to bring prosecutions and for the courts, not the Government, to decide the guilt or innocence of the accused.' Not beaten by the googly then.

And the letters page of John Lewis Partnership's in-house magazine is refreshingly frank as ever on Waitrose's refusal to trade on Sundays. 'Morals apart', storms one, 'in my opinion Mr Hampson and our senior directors are running Waitrose into the ground.'

Iain Vallance, chairman of BT, has a very Scottish name without much of an accent to match. Still, organisers of the Scottish Financial Enterprise dinner were apparently prepared to ignore that in inviting him to Whitehall on Thursday night as principal guest.

And during a wide-ranging speech designed to stir the Celtic blood, Mr Vallance kept the Scotland theme going very well, concentrating on its contribution to business. But then, confidence surging, he suggested that guests cheer on the Scottish rugby team at its all- important Calcutta Cup match against England next Sunday. Sunday?? Five Nations matches are played on Saturdays, as any true Scot knows.

And it sounded so promising. A holiday at Club Med, a visit to Peru, a Caribbean cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line and a 5 per cent discount - but all with the Accountants Travel Club.

Unusually hard times persuade even the grandest to stoop to methods long scorned. Come the spring, the Mercedes star emblem, until now considered far too stately to adorn anything but the company's cars and trucks, will brave the world of designer knick-knacks, appearing on watches, luggage and leather goods to broaden the company's appeal. Only the poshest watches, luggage and leather goods, of course.