Why I Feel Sorry for Tesco (Kind of)

I was thinking about writing this early this morning. I was going to just put the boot in rather joyously (much like everybody else practically) about their £6.4 billion pre-tax losses. Let’s face it every little may well help but the list of Tesco’s misdemeanours is rather lengthy.

In summary, Tesco simply got lost within it’s own bubble. It got too big for its boots, believing that they were the centre of everything. They became like the local ASBO kids on the estate, riding the criticism like a badge of honour, believing that they were untouchable. Perhaps for some time they were just that, but as soon as you believe your own hype, the wheels will soon start to fall off. Just ask Justin Beiber!

The Tesco machine was looked upon as decimating local communities and businesses, accused of riding roughshot over planning rules and had a reputation in squeezing their suppliers for every last penny they could. Their influence in some markets was arguably too great, in books and music sales for example. Crucially, they lost public confidence. Their prices were no longer amongst the cheapest, 8% more expensive than rival Asda, let alone Aldi or Lidl and together with reports of customer service standards slipping Tesco has now become the retail equivalent of Katie Hopkins. Except Tesco is getting its comeuppance (unlike Katie – just yet) and practically everyone is revelling in it.

In fairness, so was I.

Then I thought about the staff, around 2000 of them, at risk of losing their jobs at the 43 UK stores earmarked for closure. Whatever we think about the corporate Tesco machine, that’s 2000 ordinary workers, certainly not earning anything like millions, staring unemployment in the face. I also got to thinking about their community work and their network of Community Champion staff. I have seen, first hand, local Tesco stores providing funds, food and drink and staff time to help community projects. That doesn’t excuse all their evils of course, but I know many people who have been very grateful for this support.

Just like the banks, who created an unprecedented global financial crisis. It wasn’t those at the very top who lost out. It was the ordinary workers in the branches that had to close and the ordinary people everywhere who have suffered from the resulting age of austerity.

So, despite the initial glee at the news of Tesco’s losses, the worst ever in retail history, that I felt. It’s tinged with a little regret and the hope that lessons can be learned to put right at least some of what Tesco got very, very wrong.

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Feeding the Beast. (Instantly)

Sue Perkins waved an enforced and indefinite goodbye to twitter this week as the Motor-freak Lunatic Fringe showered her with death threats on the popular social media tool. Her crime? She was linked, falsely as it happens, as the favourite to replace the prophet Jeremy Clarkson as the new Top Gear host. Clarkson’s disciples can’t bear any non-Clarkson replacement for Clarkson, particularly as Sue Perkins happens to be a woman and a lesbian. It’s probably just as well that she isn’t black or Muslim as burning effigies of her could well have littered some of Britain’s streets and social media timelines.

Makes you proud to be British doesn’t it?

You get hounded off twitter with death threats for having the sheer arrogance to be punched by Lord Clarkson for not providing any hot supper to his holiness. Then, for actually not being Clarkson or conforming to the bigotry of the Jesus of Chipping Norton, you can expect exactly the same treatment, if not worse. The story wasn’t even true, indeed Sue Perkins herself said of presenting the show that she, “couldn’t imagine anything worse than doing it.”

Ah, but let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good story!!!

In 2015 that old media line probably couldn’t be more relevant. In the old days, before social media, the internet and making a career out of being a rent-a-gob scumbag like Jon Gaunt or Katie Hopkins there wasn’t much stuff about that was instant. Even instant stuff wasn’t that instant. There was instant coffee, but you still had to wait for the kettle to boil and stir the coffee in the hot water and even then bits of it would still float about the top. Similarly instant custard wasn’t quite so instant, you still had to get the amounts right and boil water and stir etc. Instant cameras were probably a bit more instant but then again you still had to wait for the picture to gradually appear and maybe have to shake the resulting photo about a bit, requiring some effort and possible wrist injury, for an image that wasn’t that great in the end. By today’s standards that definition of instant would probably be subject to the Trades Descriptions Act.

Nowadays, patience is thin and instant is king. People want stuff. Lots of it and they want it not in the future, not now, but then, just then. They need to access stuff “at the touch of a button”, “as quickly as possible”, “instantly”, “superfast”. There’s no time to waste, you must have your stuff now and be ready to move onto the next thing, and the next thing. Who wants to click on something more than once? Just give me it now, one click, speculate as you like, just give me it now before my finger falls off with repetitive mouse click injury.

There’s no time to actually research anything and form a well balanced view. We have 60 second news for God’s sake! There was a time when the opening titles of a news programme lasted longer than 60 seconds let alone the whole news bulletin! It’s instant though isn’t it? Forget any actual detail, or balance or heaven forbid actual facts. Here’s 5 news stories and the weather in 1 minute now go away and get back to watching Celebrity Flag Waving Extra with Stephen Mulhern.

Modern life has become a slave to the instant. The instant soundbite, the instant speculation, the instant social comment, instant news. In return everyone can react instantly too. We’re encouraged to instantly vote, to feedback instantly and so there is a prevalence to take information in instantly and to instantly like, hate, comment and worse still abuse.

There is a notion amongst a significant minority to read something on the internet, social media or to Google something and hit the first link that takes your fancy and believe everything in there and react instantly to it. I think some people must just move from outrage to outrage, spoon feeding themselves a diet of indignation and moral disbelief. Life has gotten faster and there’s no time to do any research anymore or to actually stop and think about consequences or hurt feelings. There’s a whole host of cowardly, faceless, “keyboard warriors” out there who revel in this new world of the instant and the ease of access that social media brings and joyously troll their way through anybody who doesn’t fit to their own personal tastes.

Don’t think this hasn’t gone unnoticed. It’s being gleefully used against us. Corporate companies, politicians and media groups know it and use it to their own advantage. The same lies, rumours and spin used over and over again to be liked, retweeted and shared until it becomes the truth as people can’t be bothered to find out what the facts might actually be. Look at how popular Britain First has become on Facebook. It doesn’t out itself per se as the fascist, far right, thug merchant organisation that it truly is. You actually have to do a little research to become au-fait with that. However, it constantly churns out memes and messages about Britain and the flag and the armed forces and lies about how badly done to white British folk are done to compared to foreigners. People who by and large wouldn’t class themselves as racist or thugs or fascists gleefully like and share this far-right nonsense without batting an eyelid. It callously uses the image of Lee Rigby for its own nasty propaganda, fully aware that’s his family condemn them for using those images and his name for a fascist cause that he didn’t and would never have supported. Ah, but people won’t find that out though will they? They’ll just see the plausible message and the picture of a dead soldier and click like or share in a second. You don’t actually need to think about it, just scroll and click. (We won a war remember against fascism, that’s kind of one of the reasons we have an armed forces.)

Britain First Lite or UKIP as they are more commonly referred to has Nigel Farrage declaring himself as a “man of the people” and “anti-establishment”. “Oooooh! Look at Nigel there all dressed in tweed and with a pint in his hand everywhere he goes!” people say, “He’s one of us isn’t he? Wearing all that tweed and drinking pints of real ale all the time, whatever he does, anywhere he goes, ever. Ah yes! There he is, good old Nige and that glorious tweed that we all wear don’t we? Drinking ale, good British, real ale, in pints, wherever he goes, not litres like in France but proper British pints for tweed wearing, common sense, men of the people. There he is, “The Fage” educated at public school in South London and going on to work in the City, trading commodities, perhaps tweed or real ale, just like us, Mr Anti-Establishment himself, ready to ditch workers rights and really putting two fingers up to the man, ready to dismiss us unfairly with no cause to redress whatsoever…”

The Establishment are cynically luring working class people, in a time of austerity, to blame everybody but themselves for cuts in public services, low wages and an unprecedented housing crisis. Protecting their own (bankers, non-doms, corporate tax-avoiders) whilst blaming immigrants, “benefit scroungers”, attacking the disabled and the working poor. Classic divide and rule. Retweet, share, like and believe. Just don’t check the facts.

Someone on my Facebook timeline, a young, white, working class male, argued that Clarkson was “one of them” and “spoke for people like us”. That of course will be the same Jeremy Clarkson who writes for The S*n, is a close friend and neighbour of David Cameron, supports fox hunting and was one of the invited guests to the funeral of Margaret Thatcher.

There is a whole beast out there feeding us constant information in an instant. It is a bigger beast than ever before and it’s growing. It is largely unmoderated and completely accessible. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the internet and social media and that very accessibility and freedom. We are all feeding it in some form or another, I am doing it now by writing this. It is a beast though and it can bite. Someone feeds it some nonsense about Sue Perkins and the beast bites and claims another victim.

Don’t believe everything you read. Never has this been more relevant and true in today’s society. Except it should probably be extended to read:

Don’t believe everything you read, or see liked, shared, favourited, retweeted, blogged or googled.

There’s a beast needs feeding, right now! It’s hungry and ready to bite.

Quiet Brendan!!! Okay?

Brendan Rogers needs to be quiet.

In fairness, the likelihood of Brendan ever being totally silent is going to be somewhat slim. If I’m honest I’d struggle in that respect too! However, when it comes to media appearances Brendan seems to focus on talking in terms of quantity rather than quality. Rogers is like the soundbite equivalent of the 24 hour plumber. Seemingly, always on call to say something, (indeed anything!) to a media outlet at any time of day or night. Comfortable in terms of any topic, but not necessarily able to stick to it. Happy to provide a quote but not a short one. Always obliging to critique a player or performance but likely to include the words, “terrific”, “resiliency”, “to be fair”, “okay”, “group”, “mentality”, “intensity”, “technicians”,.. Well I think you get the idea. Indeed, you can probably put all those words in one sentence, possibly in any order and have an actual quote.

Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way first. We all cringed throughout the Channel 5, “Being Liverpool” documentary. All I need to say here is “envelopes”. On top of that, some of his musings have been quite frankly a bit weird. Take the, “magic carpet ride of development”, for example or the “My biggest mentor is myself because I’ve had to study, so that’s been my biggest influence.”

I also worry about what makes Brendan tick sometimes. Apart from enjoying being football’s rent-a-quote there’s the image focus. The waistline, the teeth, the tan, the flash car, the trophy girlfriend. Of course, if the man’s winning football matches then he can do what he likes with his personal life for the majority of Liverpool fans. Indeed, I’m not one to worry about what somebody does in private per say. Yet, for someone who portrayed the family man when coming to the club to change his appearance and personal circumstances in such a short space of time, together with a love of the personal spotlight, poses a question mark for me about Brendan’s make up. You can’t take issue with the fads of the modern day player and display some of them yourself.

None of what I’ve pointed at so far though is my biggest concern.

Sometimes, Brendan can’t help himself. He can’t help but say too much and this puts him under far too much pressure. A pressure that shouldn’t exist and that he heaps upon himself. Surely being manager of Liverpool Football Club brings enough pressure on its own?

Take the Raheem Sterling situation. Whatever the rights and let’s be frank, serious wrongs of Sterling and his agent’s position, let’s be honest Brendan’s loose lips haven’t helped matters. “I think he is the best young player in European football at the moment,” he enthused last year, “He is 19 years of age and I don’t see anyone better… His overall performance has shown so much maturity and, for me, he is the best young player in European football at the moment.” Are we seriously not going to expect that direct quote  to be used in any future contract negotiation? Why did Brendan have to go that far in his assessment of Sterling anyway? What was the thought process here?

Here’s another quote regarding Sterling with Rogers talking about the initial switch to the 3-4-3 formation. “At Newcastle Raheem Sterling played as one of the wide players. So what did I get out of that game apart from a loss? I learned that Raheem probably won’t be able to play wide in what I was looking to do because he’s not in the game enough. He was on the side.” Surprisingly, Rogers played Sterling at wing-back in the very next match after this quote and in subsequent games. Why say this in the first place? Surely, the critique of Sterling isn’t necessary or helpful to start with and less so when you proceed to persist with something you’ve apparently already “learned” doesn’t work.

Okay, let’s go and show some terrific character by putting wee Sterling to one side for a moment. Here’s another senseless classic from Brendan: “Look at Tottenham. If you spend more than £100 million, you expect to be challenging for the league.” Now I don’t have to explain this one do I? We can see how silly this looks now. I could quote Rogers endlessly in making this point. He talks so much and at such length that there are web pages dedicated to his “wisdom”. He’s even been compared to David Brent. Worryingly, a list of quotes from Brent and Rogers proves very difficult to pin-point exactly who they should be attributed to! Brendan causes unnecessary problems for himself and the club by talking. Not just talking, but talking far too much.

I say all this as a lifelong Liverpool fan who supports Brendan Rogers as the manager and can see what he has done, under the current owners and their philosophy, particularly in the transfer market. Brendan has a difficult enough job on his hands without making things any further tricky for himself. He’s a young manager and essentially still learning his trade. He deserves the time to be a success at Liverpool.

Someone should have a quiet word with him though.

Sssssssssshhhhhhhhh!!! Okay?!!

ITV Leader’s Debate Liveblog

18:38  Preview Hype

The national evening news and local news are building this up as best they can. They can’t resist comparing the set to that of a gameshow. So far The Weakest Link and 15 to 1.

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19:09  Mind the Farage

Nigel Farage of the UKIPs will be hoping for a better performance this evening than his appearance on Radio 4 this morning. He couldn’t decide if he wanted no cap on immigration or a target of 30,000 or a cap of 50,000.

According to the man himself he’s done no preparation for the debate tonight. Not sure if he’ll be allowed to bring a pint onto the set with him.

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19:22  Green with Envy?

Any sort of performance from Natalie Bennet of the Green Party would be welcome. Will Green activists be wishing Caroline Lucas was actually their leader?

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19:28

Nick Clegg was the outright winner of these debates last time out. What a difference 5 years can make though! Clegg, according to a recent poll is under threat of losing his own seat. Can he turn things around here and does anybody actually agree with him about anything anymore?

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19:45  Goody Two Shoes

Apparently Ed Milliband has two pairs of shoes for tonight’s event. His advisors couldn’t decide which pair to get for him earlier so bought both. Following the “two kitchens” revelations maybe Ed just loves things being in twos. Perhaps he’s a big fan of Noah?

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19:51  10 minute warning

Just 10 minutes to go and the atmosphere couldn’t be more tense. My wife can’t find her phone and she’s going out in a minute! As for the debates well, there’s now about 8 minutes to go.

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19:57  From Salmond to Sturgeon

It’s a big night for Nicola Sturgeon for the SNP too. Her predecessor would have revelled in this tonight. Can she prove just as charismatic?

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20:05  We’re off!!!

Natalie Bennett actually sounds naturally quite annoying doesn’t she? And hey what a surprise Nigel Farage heads straight to the immagration counter!

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20:06  Clegg’s Mistakes

Nick Clegg has “made mistakes”. Something tells me he’ll likely pay for them in this election!

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20:08  Leanne Wood

Oh look! It’s Leanne Wood. You know, Leanne… Leanne Wood. I think she’s from Wales isn’t she?

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20:12  Milliband Slip

Ed Milliband looks nervous. Slipping slightly over his initial opening speech. Must do better!

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20:13  Leanne Wood

The Welsh lady wants to put more funding into public services. I like her. What’s her name again?

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20:15  Pintless

Nigel Farage looks undressed without a pint in his hand doesn’t he? YIKES!!! NIGEL FARAGE IS NAKED!!! LOOK AWAY!!! LOOK AWAY!!!

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20:17  So far, so slow

This is all very civilised isn’t it? If it carries on like this I’ll be reaching for the Blue Nun!

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20:22  Business has just picked up

Nicola Sturgeon has said “I back Ed on this.” Could this be the next “I agree with Nick”?

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20:26  Here’s Johnny!!!

Everyone is fighting for Johnny’s attention right now. Look at his face just look at his little face!!!

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20:28  Subliminal Messages

David Cameron’s podium is positioned on the far right. Is it a sign?

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20:32  The Northern Ireland Question

There won’t be one as nobody from Northern Ireland has been invited. Only Eamonn Holmes seems to have noticed.

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20:36  1st Question Done

I can’t see, based on the 1st question how anyone is going to be seen as winning this debate. It’s all a bit slow. It’s a bit gloves on and frankly a bit dull. Someone hand Nigel Farage a pint and see if he can provoke Nicola Sturgeon into a square go in the car park.

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20:42  Never Forget

Cameron may never forget how the NHS helped his kids but he may forget his kids after a few drinks in the pub.

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20:46  Health Tourism

I don’t think Health Tourism will catch on personally. Once you’ve seen one hospital you’ve seen them all really.

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20:51  This hour’s dragged

No punches have really been landed here have they? This almost makes you want to see a return of Des O’Connor Tonight.

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20:53  Northern Ireland

Nicola Sturgeon gives a shout out to Northern Ireland! Someone remembers. Eamonn Holmes can sleep easier tonight now.

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20:56  SNP 2 The Rest 0

Nicola Sturgeon has got a laugh and a round of applause. Those tough stand-up gigs in Glasgow must be paying off. Stony silence elsewhere though. SNP winning and most of us watching can’t vote for them!

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21:00  On the Attack

Ed Milliband clearly looking to attack David Cameron at every opportunity. Cameron’s refusal to debate one on one with him a tactical mistake in my view and Milliband making the most of it.

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21:11  Damned lies, statistics and Farage

Farage blaming housing crisis on immigrants now. He seems to have forgotten his beloved Thatcher’s social housing sell off in the 80s.

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21:19  Clegg Watch

Nobody has come out and said “I agree with nick yet” although Cameron has said that he has “made an important point”. If this was the cabinet Cameron would have ruffled his hair and fed him a biscuit.

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21:28  Format

I think the public should have been given the opportunity to get rid of a few of the leaders by now. Maybe a trap-door underneath them. Couldn’t some of the Northern Irish Leaders made a brief appearance by satellite, or a cameo appearance as a plinth or something?

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21:32  Tuition Fees

Nick Clegg has mentioned tuition fees. Sssssshhhh! I think he got away with it. Don’t mention the poor!

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21:35  3-0 SNP

Another smattering of applause for Sturgeon. Scotland haven’t seen this sort of result on English soil since they stole the goalposts at Wembley!

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21:39  CHAOS

In a total breakdown Clegg lands a blow on Milliband, who lands one on Cameron. It was like pass the blow out there for a minute. I almost put down the Blue Nun.

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21:42  Score

If you’re keeping score it’s SNP 3, Liberal Democrats 1, Labour 1, The Rest 0.

20 minutes left and maybe this is going to lead to a barnstorming finish!

Maybe not.

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21:47  HECKLER! HECKLER!

I just spilt the Blue Nun as a heckler gets stuck into David Cameron. Maybe there will be a late surge…

SNP 3, Labour 1, Liberal Democrats 1, Heckler 1, The Rest 0.

Vote Heckler!

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21:49  Farage

Farage looks undressed without his usual tweed outfit. YIKES!!! FARAGE IS NAKED!!! FARAGE IS NAKED!!! LOOK AWAY!!! LOOK AWAY!!!

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21:51  Late Rally

Cameron gets a round of applause too now landing a blow on Milliband with the Labour safe haven of zero hours contracts. Only putting him on terms with the heckler though.

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21:53  Clegg

Clegg basically arguing for a vote to sit on the fence. In fairness he’s low on energy now. He’s gone 2 hours without Cameron feeding him a biscuit.

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21:56  Northern Ireland

The Greens mention Northern Ireland now. Someone could at least point to it on a map or something. For Eamonn Holmes’ sake at least.

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21:59  Farage

Farage the common man. Most common men are investment bankers and esablishment figures aren’t they?

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22:01  That’s it!

The shaking hands at the end looked a bit awkward. Looked like that kind of forced politeness at a New Year party. At least they didn’t swap shirts. Nigel Farage looked undressed enough as it was.

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22:20  Millsey’s Final Thought

Well, that was a bit flat really wasn’t it? If anything Nicola Sturgeon won for me, proving why Scotland will probably overun Labour up there. Not great for the rest of us who can’t vote SNP though. Cracking surprise entry from the heckler. I imagine she will have polled well! Clegg got the bounce at the last election debate but can’t see anyone having a similar result this time. Farage looked like he needed a drink. I’ve not seen someone look that pale and sweaty in politics since Charles Kennedy heard last orders called. Cameron in two TV election set pieces now hasn’t really cut it. He’s not done badly by any means but together with his reluctance on the debate front he’s not looked strong. Milliband, similarly hasn’t done badly but has probaly been made to look better, again because of Cameron’s dithering on the debates. I wonder what the Northern Irish think?

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22:27  Millsey’s Final, Final Thought

Polls all over the place in terms of who won and who lost. Maybe that’s 2 hours that we just can’t get back. So, onto Question Time, This Week and probably more Blue Nun. Goodnight Great Britain wherever you are (except viewers in Northern Ireland).

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