A retail handle for economic shambles
According to the coalition government, our country should be looking to develop a John Lewis economy while working to avoid the Pret a Manger phenomenon. Basement Jack is wondering whether tippex privileges should be withdrawn from a couple of senior politicians.
Have you noticed that politicians from the Con-Dem coalition have started name-checking retailers as a means to illustrate their arguments? The first instance came from the Deputy Prime Minister a few weeks back. Cleggers', with typically inspired economic insight, thought the country would be a generally nicer place if we developed a 'John Lewis economy'. Companies he said should emulate the upmarket store's practice of giving its employees (or partners) a stake in its success, rewarding them in line with the profits it has made.
This is classic Lib Dem cobblers from their traditional real estate on the political sidelines. Before the current unholy alliance was created the Lib Dems could propose any old excrement safe in the knowledge that it would never come anywhere close to being policy. But for the deputy prime minister to suggest something akin to "wouldn't it be nice if we all had a pony?" was moderately alarming.
Not to be outdone by his partner-in-power the Mayor of London has also got in on the act. Boris refered to the 'Pret a Manger phenomenon' as indicative of the work ethic Britain's youth apparently no longer has. In an interview with The Sun newspaper he commented: "Look at Pret a Manger. If you've been to one recently, how many native Londoners served you? What's going on? London is a place that is fantastic creator of jobs, but many of these jobs are going to people who don't originate in this country."
A key problem for the economy he suggested was that the UK's youth lacked the energy of their foreign counterparts. That's right, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson (look it up), schooled at Eton and Oxford, former member of the infamous, uber-wealthy, restaurant-smashing Bullingdon Club, the man who dismissed the £250,000 he was paid as a Daily Telegraph columnist as "chicken feed" has taken it upon himself to lecture Britain's youth about not taking up craft-level jobs. Just how many similar jobs have you held BoJo?
One of the London Mayor's more endearing traits has always been his pronounced air of eccentricity, his slight removal from reality - as emphasised by that white-blonde haystack atop his bonce. Among all the smarmy, populist bandwagon-jumpers in Westminster his reliably off-message speeches and pronounced awkwardness in anything but prose have always been a bit of a treat to watch. But adopting such a hectoring tone on a subject that can't have orbited within a few million lightyears of the decidedly privileged Planet Boris did nothing but emphasise the distance between the governed and those doing the governing in Britain 2012.
Don't get me wrong, this isn't a vote of support for the feckless, whey-faced malingerers who loiter in bus shelters, bandstands and shopping centres across our fair land. Nor am I some Billy Bragg-loving, Socialist Worker-selling lefty. If a certain number among the youth can't be a*sed to get a job or think shopwork is beneath them, sod'em, maybe a little period without their benefits might change their minds? Or maybe even forced conscription to the armed services at minimum wage? I hear Helmand Province is just lovely this time of year.
BoJo is the Mayor of London and as such must speak to those issues affecting the Capital's economy. But right now he really needs to take on board the widespread and growing sense of social and financial injustice across the country. Even with RBS boss Stephen Hester finally deciding he could make do with his meagre £1.2 million salary and struggle on without his £963,000 bonus there's an anger bubbling just below the surface, a sense that those in charge are taking the p*ss out of the rest of us.
When people are facing redundancy and struggling to make ends meet, the notion that such a bonus had to be paid in case Hester walked is as incendiary as it is ridiculous. What materially had he achieved to deserve it? Knack all...and that is the level at which his bonus should have been set. Any complaints and he should have been told to 'do one'. I reckon a few folk might have had a go at the job for £1.2 million.
So Boris' message isn't necessarily wrong, but the means of delivery needs a lot of work. Meanwhile you'd think the Opposition would be tapping into this social disquiet and taking the Con-Dems to task on behalf of the masses? Maybe once upon a time they would have...but not in the age of the New Old Labour Party or the 'Woolworths Labour Party' as I like to think of them: as in entirely absent, an entity remembered by many with fondness but ultimately irrelevant.