The second most over-used word of the moment, apart from the R-word, is carbon - as in low-carbon economy. It was a week when all our major retailers fell over themselves to assure us they weren't the evil monsters who seek to cover our green and pleasant land with superstores and parking lots, but instead are the new caring face of environmentally friendly shopping. Last Monday, Marks & Spencer announced a 100-point eco-strategy, pledging to become carbon-neutral by 2012. With support from Greenpeace and the WWF, M&S has said it will mark all produce that has been air-freighted into Britain with plane symbols, and plans to cut down on energy consumption and aim eventually to send no waste to landfill sites.
Days later Tesco, clearly miffed it had been pipped at the post in the battle to be Britain's greenest supermarket, promised to re-label all 70,000 products on sale to highlight carbon costs. It also pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2020 and to run its lorries on biodiesel. Tesco already offers loyalty-card points to shoppers who do not take carrier bags, and last year unveiled plans to put wind turbines and solar panels into new buildings. Now it is going to offer discounts on products (such as low-energy light bulbs) that use less energy, and source more food locally. Tesco, like M&S, also plans to put plane symbols on food that has been brought into the UK by air. This could backfire - I bet that this labelling, which in an ideal world would discourage people from buying, will simply become a must-have, luxury item amongchavs anxious to impress their mates.
After spending eight months looking into the way our big supermarkets conduct their business, the Competition Commission will be publishing its first set of findings on Tuesday, and is expected to devote most of the report to Tesco, which has been heavily criticised by those who feel it dominates the market with a share of 31 per cent and sucks the life out of the high street with nearly 2,000 stores. The Sustainable Communities Bill, a Private Member's Bill aimed at halting the decline of the high street, received its second reading in the Commons on Friday. One of the Bill's proposals is that councils should be able to offer lower rates to independent shops that sell local produce. But it's not likely to succeed, and anyway the damage to the high street has already been done - not just by supermarkets but by chains selling everything from coffee to body lotion.
I applaud supermarkets' green initiatives, but I can't really believe their hearts are in saving our planet. What use is sticking a load of planes on asparagus tips, shelled peas and sliced mangoes? It would be better if they sold less of the stuff to begin with. They have pioneered out-of-season food, and ready-prepared fruit and veg, and have turned us into lazy slobs who can't cook, won't cook.
No amount of labelling, whether it's planes or carbon content, is going to change our shopping habits overnight. At the moment, organic food is still a middle-class choice, and environmentally friendly measures will appeal to exactly the same group of shoppers. A survey last week showed that most Britons spend more on gambling and takeaways each week than on fresh fruit and vegetables - that demonstrates the shopping habits of ordinary people are all to do with economics and time, rather than with the environment. If you're poor, you have neither the hours at your disposal after work nor the money to compare prices, prepare food, and worry about your carbon footprint. Feeding the family and paying the rising fuel bills are your top priority. So will Tesco lower its prices to alter the shopping habits of its core market? I doubt it very much.
You may have noticed I've had a spot of bother
Like Ruth Turner, I was in the news last week following a brush with the law. Miss Turner suffered the indignity of being woken up at 6.30am and taken to a police station, whereas I attended Islington police station at a pre-arranged time, after a complaint by one of my neighbours. But sometimes I wonder about the image the police want to portray of themselves - why didn't they just telephone Miss Turner and ask her to come and answer some questions? As Mr Blair's right-hand woman, she was hardly going to flee the country.
The resulting furore makes the police look unnecessarily macho and heavy-handed, and distracts from the serious nature of the investigation into the "cash for honours" saga. In my case, I was left sitting in a room for no reason for an hour before making a statement. Then my solicitor and I were left for over three hours before I was finally allowed to go home.
Surprise, surprise, a paparazzo was waiting outside (my agent had already received a phone call from a reporter while I was inside an interview room in the police station) and here's the result - JSP pictured outside Sainsbury's last Tuesday at 6pm, looking for all the world as if she's just popped out to pick up some Brussels sprouts and a packet of porridge.
I have the highest regard for the police - they have a difficult job to do - but sometimes I think they go about their business in a strange way.
Royal rides: The Prince's eco-credentials take a tumble
Prince Charles has been castigated for flying to the US to collect an environmental award, taking 20 staff and booking the entire Business and First Class sections of a British Airways plane at a cost of more than £100,000. Although he's also pleaded "official business", there can't be too much of that, as the whole trip is only taking two days. Now we are told that the Prince has cancelled his annual skiing trip to Klosters to boost his green credentials, and is not making his annual pilgrimage to a Greek monastery in May. He could have taken the train to the skiing, if he had wished, and could have travelled the same way to Greece, just as he could have accepted his eco-award by video-conferencing. Could the real reason he's not donning his goggles be the fact that Harry and William are too busy in the army, and his wife loathes skiing? Poor Johnny No-mates has decided to pretend it was all to do with the "environment".
Steal away: Shoplifting. What's the attraction?
I don't know about you, but I've never been the slightest bit interested in shoplifting. I'm not one of those celebrities who can boast about a childhood spent nicking sweets from the local newsagent - I'm sorry, but I don't even find it entertaining. As far as I'm concerned, it might sound boring, but stealing from shops sucks - it just puts up the prices for other shoppers. Even more mystifying is why rich people do it. Two professional footballers have just been given on-the-spot £80 fines for stealing toilet seats and bathroom fittings from B&Q in Dartford. What were they on?Reuse content