Every little helps Tesco, but not us

After the horse meat scandal, the food retailer has placed apologetic ads in national newspapers


Now we have the new "humble" Tesco. Hit by plummeting consumer confidence, Britain's largest food retailer has taken drastic action placing full-page ads in national newspapers, pleading like a lover determined to repair a rocky relationship. This "heartfelt" declaration of humility confesses WHAT BURGERS HAVE TAUGHT US. The "problem" with its meat was "about some of the ways we get [it] to your dinner table". Talk about spouting generalities. Tesco has been "been working on it … but we need to move quicker. Our supply chain is too complicated … so we're making it simpler" – but these ads don't say how. Now, all its beef will be sourced from the UK or Ireland. It says: "If you're not happy, tell us. This is it. We are changing." Those three words – this is it – make me feel slightly nauseous. If Tesco loves us so much, wouldn't they have policed things better in the first place? Terry Leahy, who brilliantly steered the company to its dominant position, is so ruthless he's admitted "bribing" his kids to snitch on his wife – who got "a severe telling-off" if he found any Waitrose products in the fridge.

Sir Terry is right about one thing: shoppers killed the high street, not Tesco. We choose supermarkets for convenience and price, and in return expect transparency and fair dealing. But in three key areas we're being sold short. Take pricing: bundling, discounts and Bogofs – you need A-level maths to work out the cheapest deals. Labelling is equally complex – five a day, traffic lights, percentages of daily requirements, and ingredients – a load of mumbo jumbo in tiny print. Meat products concocted from a mystery mix with all sorts of components. Sausages made with stuff scraped off bones and sinews, renamed something more palatable. Finally, loyalty cards: they might give points and small discount vouchers, but are used to spy on our shopping habits and tailor pricing accordingly. All supermarkets, Tesco included, are about delivering profits to shareholders, not cuddly love. Don't be seduced.

Under the skin

Beyoncé attracts the wrath of animal rights group Peta by ordering a unique pair of shoes crafted from exotic skins – stingray, anaconda, calfskin and crocodile. These expensive trainers are a one-off collaboration between PMK (Perfectly Made Kicks) and trendy French designer Isabel Marant. The singer regularly wears exotic hides, performing at the Super Bowl in a tacky bodysuit made from python, iguana and calf.

Is she sending a message she's as powerful and fearless as the creatures these hides once covered?

Exotic skin replaces the gold chains and bling worn by rappers and musicians of yesteryear and coincides with the rise of a super-wealthy group of female consumers in the US, former Soviet satellite states and the Far East, who want clothing to reflect their new vast wealth. These women just want lavish display, the gaudier the better. Take a look round posh restaurants in Mayfair and Knightsbridge. In the Fendi show in Milan last week, fur adorned everything including bags and models even sported fur mohicans – a look I hope isn't replicated on the high street.

Office goss

A traitor to the sisterhood, or a pragmatic realist in tough economic times? One of the most successful female executives in the world has outraged her fellow workers by issuing a directive ordering them to stop working at home. Modern technology revolutionised where and how we work, but Yahoo! boss Marissa Mayer has decided that output is higher when people interact face to face.

When she was appointed, Ms Mayer announced she would be taking only two weeks' maternity leave, and a nursery for her son Macallister was built next to her office, enabling her to spend longer hours at her desk. She enraged mums by commenting: "Motherhood has been way easier than everyone made it out to be" – a bit rich when she's on a salary of £77m over five years. Her diktat could be a way of reducing staff numbers, as hundreds are expected to resign. Home working has been my way of life for more than a decade now, but I'm grateful that broadcasting jobs mean I have to go out and interact with others.

Working from home can make you lonely and obsessive; you work ridiculous hours and lose all sense of proportion because there's no one to bring you back to reality with a bit of office trivia. Ms Mayer thinks that going into an office will make her staff work harder, but the best thing about going to a workplace is a chance to exchange pleasantries, out of which will come some real ideas. We're better workers not because of time at our desks or work stations, but because of those 15 minutes of water-cooler waffle.

Missing mum

Paul McCartney wrote the beautiful song "Let It Be" in 1968 as a tribute to his mother Mary, who died of cancer when he was 14. Clearly, his beloved mum, a midwife, played an important part shaping his life, and he named his daughter after her. When a fan in Brazil asked recently what he would do if he had a time machine, Paul said: "Go back and spend time with my mum."

This made me think quite hard. My mum and I got on badly, especially during her last 10 years, when she was very demanding and miserable. After her death, I wrote a book, Baggage, about her life and our seesaw relationship, which did provide some relief. Now, I've finally grown up enough to be able to handle her, and it would be good to talk. Shame it's too late, but I know what Paul means.

Shop talk

Intellectually, I should have enjoyed BBC2's Dancing on the Edge. Instead, I prefer the period pap of Mr Selfridge. Dancing moved at a stately pace; the characters spoke ponderously, and the ending happened at least three times in succession.

In the final episode last week, the fleeing musicians, led by the wonderful Chiwetel Ejiofor, got in and out of taxis and cars, ran around Wilton's Music Hall, boarded and disembarked from trains. By letting the leading man (wrongly accused of murder) escape out of the country, Stephen Poliakoff's period piece fizzled out like a damp sparkler, and no amount of fabulous locations, make-up and costumes could rescue it.

In Mr Selfridge, the leading man never stands still, either – running from home to department store, up and down stairs and corridors, continually issuing orders. That's good, because when Jeremy Piven stands still, he's hopelessly wooden, about as lifelike as Peter Brough's dummy, Archie Andrews. It doesn't matter because Mr Selfridge is perfect Sunday night fodder, an undemanding frothy blend of Upstairs Downstairs and Downton. Critics were unimpressed, but the show helped ITV's impressive profits announced last week – sold to more than 35 countries and a second series is in production.

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