All entries for Wednesday 24 January 2007

January 24, 2007

Britishness is dead. Long live…?

Union Jack The British are feeling less so than ever before. Over the past decade, the number of people calling themselves ‘British’ has fallen from 52% to 44%. And while Scots nationalism has increased, Wales has remained ambivalent about its own identity.

Ask a Scot whether they are British or Scottish, and according to the British Social Attitudes Survey, nearly 80% will say Scottish. Ask a Welshman whether they are Welsh or British, and 60% will say they’re Welsh (the same figure as 30 years ago). And half of Englishmen claim to be British.

This shows a few things…

  • We seem to be heading nearer and nearer completely separate identities.
  • The English identity is relatively weak
  • And the Welsh seem unlikely to want further devolution, even though the Assembly is considered toothless.

Kerry out of 2008

It’s not even begun, but already a potential candidate has pulled out of the race.

John Kerry (right)Senator John Kerry, who lost to President Bush in 2004, has reportedly said he won’t run again. Instead he’ll seek another six-year term in the Senate.

Kerry will have noticed the momentum in the Clinton and Obama campaigns and realised he doesn’t have a hope of losing his ‘yesterday’s news’ tag. He dashed his hopes during the 2006 midterm elections by making an inappropriate joke about the President.

His withdrawal reduces the main field of Democrat candidates to nine. I’d wouldn’t be surprised to see others follow him over the coming months.


How much Tescofication are you willing to take?

Go on, you know you’re feeling guilty. Every time you go under the strip lighting there’s a tug on your moral conscience. You’re screwing with African farmers, filling the ozone layer with food miles and making small businesses go bust.

And yet you can’t stop yourself.

Don’t worry, neither can I. Our society’s changed so that convenience matters more to us than conscientiousness.

The supermarkets even bitch about each other. Sainsbury’s reckon their rivals Tesco will have 43% of the market by 2010, and that something should be done to stop them. They don’t mention the fact that, while smaller, they are as guilty as anyone else.

Only around 15% of the cost of a loaf of bread goes back to the farmer who grew the wheat. It’s about 30% for eggs and 40% for carrots. Few goods offer more than half of their store price to the producer.

Dairy farmers have been particularly badly hit. In 1995 they got around 59% of the retail price of milk. Today it’s just 35%. The supermarket’s share has risen from 3% to 30%. So it’s pretty clear who’s winning that battle1.

And there’s been a double-whammy for farmers. Because while most products have seen inflation of 48% since 1990, food prices have risen just 27%. It means farmers’ incomes have been plummeting in relation to everyone else’s.

So at what point do we stop praising the international success of a British business and start telling them to get their house in order? Do we expect them to start closing stores? Would a greater variety of supermarket owners make any difference to producers? Are we happy with the inevitable situation where there are only four or five food retailers in the UK?

I spoke to a greengrocer today who was annoyed not just with Tesco’s attitude to producers and small rivals, but with the people who accept it and only shop there. He works alone, in the cold, for ten hours a day, starting very early. He pours blood, sweat and tears into his job.

Is it about time Tesco and others started being put under the same pressure as him by consumers and government? Or are we happy with the convenient monopoly which makes life easy for the big supermarkets?

1. National Farmers’ Union figures


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