Tag Archives: cynicism

On Supermarkets, And Cynicism

Tesco has gained some useful free publicity by selling champagne for £8 a bottle, just in time for Christmas.

God knows what it tastes like – some reports say not that great. Because at my local megastore, early on Saturday morning, there was none to be seen.

There was space for about 12 bottles, a tiny stretch of shelving, with the offer on full display. Elsewhere around the store, there was acres and acres of shelves devoted to the full priced stuff, £25, £30 a bottle.

Next to that empty space, though, there was a huge number of bottles of another champagne, at almost £14 a bottle. Claimed to be half price, though these offers are never what they seem.

The way it works is this. Shoppers read about the £8 stuff, and go along to buy it. Needless to say, it barely exists. No supermarket can make a profit at £8 a bottle. They can, at £14. So you can’t get the cheap stuff, but you say, well I want some champagne anyway. You pick up the £14 bottle. The free publicity therefore means Tesco can sell more of the stuff it can make a profit on.

Utterly cynical.

Tesco admitted a couple of months ago that there was a hole in its accounts worth a quarter of a billion quid, because someone had been cooking the books. You’d have to sell a fair few bottles of fizz at £14 to make up the difference.

Still, every little helps.


David Freud, Again

The backlash over Lord (David) Freud’s remarks over paying less to the disabled to get them back into the workplace has been truly encouraging. Labour tried to make a cynical political point by misquoting Freud, whom I knew as an investment banker but is now a Tory minister, claiming he wanted to force the disabled to take slave wages.

As I pointed out the other day, he didn’t. He wanted them paid a salary according to their abilities, thinking particularly of those suffering from mental illnesses such as depression, for whom a job, if only part-time, might serve as a useful bridge back into society.

Most people seem to have appreciated this. Several parents with disabled children have stepped up to say, yes, that is exactly what should happen. It has emerged that this is, indeed, the policy of at least one large charity that supports the disabled.

Most hearteningly, a Labour minister who tried to score a cheap political point on Question Time, assuming the audience would agree, was roundly booed. It seems you can’t fool all the people, all the time, with the sort of smug, yah boo sucks grandstanding and posturing that has replaced serious debate over policy inside the Westminster bubble. People are increasingly viewing these political games, and those who play them, with contempt.

And Freud is still in his job.

Not that I am convinced the Tories would have behaved any better.

David Freud

As it happens, I have known David, now Lord, Freud for about a quarter of a century, on and off. He is the minister who has got himself into trouble for some ill-reported words that appeared to suggest that the disabled should be forced to take work at well below the minimum wage. He has been required to make a grovelling apology.

We’ll come onto what he actually said later. David is part of that diverse Freud clan, a descendant of Sigmund Freud. The clan witheringly, if unfairly, summed up in Absolutely Fabulous as “bunch of no-talents with an ancestor”, one of those insults that will stick long after the facts are forgotten.

I first knew him when, as an investment banker, he was selling shares in Eurotunnel and Euro Disney. These were, he will admit, not the greatest of investments, and some remember him for this alone. We later had a mild falling-out over the flotation of an airport in, if I remember rightly, Austria.

David worked for Blair and Labour, which hardly suggests a free market ideologue, although admittedly, some odd people did get dragged into the Big Tent at that time. He also worked for a charity promoting peace between Israel and Palestine. He is by no means a tooth-grinding, “starve the poor” right-winger. He does, occasionally, have difficulty expressing himself as perhaps a professional politician would. Some earlier remarks about food banks were badly received.

What he said, clumsily, or what I suspect he meant to say, was that some disabled people are not able to do a job that would justify their being paid a full wage. This is self-evidently true; it is why they get disability benefit. Freud was wondering aloud if there was a way that, if they were keen to gain some self-respect by working, they might be paid less than the minimum wage and continue to receive benefits to provide them with a decent standard of living.

This has been deliberately misinterpreted, to whip up an artificial controversy and provide the Opposition with some cheap, temporary political gain. An honourable man has been forced to apologise for remarks he did not make. He may even leave politics, and politics would be the poorer. No wonder Westminster is so widely despised by ordinary people.