Thursday, 22 May 2008
Toffs and Trollies
'Does one know the way to John Lewis?'
A little while ago, my local Sainsbury’s closed temporarily for refurbishment in order to rearrange the store to resemble Jamie Oliver’s face. Instead, I was forced to go to ASDA. If you ever need to feel a little better about the state of your life, I suggest you visit. The trolleys may have minds of their own, but the check out staff for the most part do not, and as for the clientele, they are less ASDA and more ASBO. It was cheap mind you, and I felt strangely compelled to pat my back pocket accordingly as I walked back to my car. I also learned that ‘George at ASDA’ was not in fact a helpful man behind the cheese counter, but the designer tasked with dressing the nation’s council estates.
I was reminded of this excursion recently when I heard that ASDA held the second biggest share of the UK grocery shopping market. They are overshadowed only by TESCO, whose titan-like grip on British (and increasingly world) shopping poses as big a threat to our planet as Climate Change. In fact, environmental and economic experts estimate that by 2100, rising sea levels will have covered 80% of the Earth’s landmass, and the remaining 20% will be covered in nothing but TESCO express stores.
This got me thinking. Assuming the lower paid, working classes of this country are reflected in the demographic seen at ASDA, then this comprises a huge proportion (17% to be precise) of potential voters in the next general election. Class has been put in the spotlight of late with Labour’s attempt to paint the Tories as ‘Toffs’, planting two activists in Top hats and tails during the much publicised run up to the Crewe & Nantwich by election.
Also in the news has been the resurgence of the debate over MP’s expenses, which, entirely paid for by the taxpayer, can amount to twice the salary of each MP and include furnishings for their second homes in London. To standardise these expenses and justify all the gold-plated kitchen sinks in Westminster, a list has been compiled using prices from John Lewis, the department store that also operates Waitrose. This is hardly a reflection of everyday British retail, and ensures that unlike most of the population, MP’s can enjoy the finer things in life. As such, whilst the Prime Minister reclines in his John Lewis hot tub, he should think twice about throwing accusations of ‘Toff’ at other parties and takes a moment to consider that many ‘ordinary people’ might consider his party to lead a privileged existence too.
There does of course exist one obvious solution. In an effort to help level the playing field, MP’s expenses should from now on be calculated against prices at ASDA……