Editor-At-Large: Supermarkets need reining in, not royalty

Share
Related Topics

She's swapped the tiara for a trolley: the first post-wedding picture of our future Queen was taken in the car park of Waitrose in Anglesey as the new Duchess of Cambridge wheeled her purchases, accompanied by three bodyguards and a back-up vehicle. The £50,000 designer dress has been swapped for jeans and comfy shoes. A generation ago, no member of the royal family would have been seen shopping. That was something staff did by phone and tradesmen delivered.

Now, as part of a careful re-branding operation involving a large team of press and PR advisers and designed to ensure that the monarchy is still seen as relevant and value for money, the younger members of the Firm are only too happy to be seen doing "normal" things, just like the rest of us.

Supermarkets are part of modern life, but deep down, we're worried about their all-pervasive presence. Our love/hate relationship with these massive retailers is fascinating. Queen-to-be Kate finds them useful, and has given Waitrose a very public endorsement, but her new father-in-law might disagree. He was happy to take their sponsorship for his eco-gardening event at Clarence House last summer, but that can't have sat easily with his enthusiastic championing of small businesses and farmers. Not to mention his oft-voiced hatred of vulgar architecture. He can't possibly love a big retail box sited in a field.

Our complex relationship with supermarkets is typified by the fact that while Kate is happy to be snapped with her trolley, there have been street battles in Bristol where some local people are outraged by a new branch of Tesco Express in an area packed with small retailers. Banksy has come up with a naff poster of a quasi-petrol bomb in a Tesco bottle, the proceeds of which will be going to the legal fighting fund of those who have been arrested.

I was a supermarket-hater – until masses of you emailed and wrote to me pointing out that, for working people, they are invaluable. These days, like many of you, I've arrived at a compromise, buying meat and veg from stalls and small shops, and the basics from the big chains. Unless more of us do this balancing act, then our high streets will wither and die. Yes, it takes a bit more time, but there isn't really an alternative.

What I particularly loathe about supermarkets is their spurious efforts to appear socially aware. Supermarkets tend to buy internationally, where pay is lower. They only buy from local suppliers when they can get the price down to their acceptable level, meaning suppliers hardly make a profit. The best way to protect our high streets and ensure that small specialist retailers survive is for local councils to charge out-of-town supermarkets higher rates, and reduce the rates paid by the small traders on the high street. Or they could tax the car parks at supermarkets, and use the money to fund cheaper parking in town centres.

Supermarkets always pretend they are there to help us, when the reality is that they exist to help their shareholders. Profit is their goal, pure and simple. So when I saw the new Sainsbury's campaign, Feed your Family for £50 a week, I felt slightly queasy. That's less than the budget for prisoners and only slightly more than that for NHS patients, and we wouldn't rush to either of those organisations for a delicious meal, would we? Yes, we're in a recession, but is a bacon and butterbean hotpot really the best way to get food on the table for less?

This campaign is part of a long-running strategy to demonstrate that Sainsbury's is no more expensive than its rivals. When M&S and Waitrose offered dinner for two for £10, Sainsbury's countered with Dine in for a Fiver. Earlier this year, it promoted meals for four for £20. Now, it's attempting to remove all choice from our lives – log on and with a click of the mouse, you have ordered a week's food. The ingredients included white bread, Nestlé Shredded Wheat in bite-sized chunks, frozen broccoli, frozen pork sausages, a pack of stir-fry mix, basic pasta shapes, and butter spread.

That list makes me want to throw up. I could feed a family of four for a week more imaginatively. The recipes – spaghetti with meatballs, salmon pasta with broccoli, and cottage pie – are time-warp food, totally uninspiring. No lentils. No fresh pasta. No herbs. Bland mush. Sainsbury's is spending £10m on this campaign. Why doesn't it lower prices, instead of suggesting toast and jam for breakfast and a cheese sandwich for lunch?

Ed's doing his own thing (after running it past a focus group)

Ed Miliband isn't a person, he's a project. Sadly, everything the geeky Labour leader does or says seems to be the product of a policy consultation – it's got to tick all the right boxes.

Hence he's getting married (belatedly, after siring two sons) at a nice country hotel in front of 50 friends, but he doesn't want to offend all the unmarried potential Labour voters. So it can't be a traditional affair. He's not having a best man – and now he's not having a stag do. Instead, there will be a dinner for 30 pals, to be held at his home in the next fortnight.

Shall we assume that a quota has been applied and there will be the requisite number of gay, ethnic and disabled guests?

Can a glove puppet help rehabilitate Mel Gibson in the eyes of the public?

Until recently, Mel Gibson was regarded as box office poison in the US. His career has rollercoastered since his debut in Mad Max in 1979 – his antics make Charlie Sheen's misdemeanours look minor league.

Following drunken rants, Gibson has been described as a homophobe, a misogynist and a racist. He threatened to burn down his former girlfriend's house and punched her in the face, breaking two teeth, but he says he's a devout Catholic and directed The Passion of Christ, which made a profit of $600m (£370m).

Now he may be on the brink of an astonishing comeback. His new film The Beaver has created huge excitement in the US, with his performance described as "sensational". Gibson plays the boss of a toy company suffering from manic depression who begins to communicate via a glove puppet found in a bin. You couldn't make it up.

Gibson is rich, so money isn't the issue. Can a glove puppet win him back public affection?

* The Maldives are a luxury travel destination – but how many holidaymakers realise there's another side to paradise? Following the decision to float the local currency against the US dollar, the price of food (most of which has to be imported) has soared by 30 per cent, and there have been six nights of violent unrest in the capital, Male.

A luxury cabana costs thousands of dollars a night, but 16 per cent of the locals live in poverty and unemployment is 14.4 per cent. Tourism is an important part of the economy – but I wonder if recent visitors to the 1,200 islands were even aware of discontent among the locals.





React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The first lesson of today is... don't treat women unequally?  

Yvette Cooper is right: The classroom is the best place to start teaching men about feminism

Chris Maume
Forty per cent of global trades in euros are cleared through London  

The success enjoyed by the City of London owes nothing to the EU

Nigel Farage
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting