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Sunday, December 12, 2004

Supermarkets and the nanny

I am still trying to resist the temptation of commenting on the David Blunkett affair on the grounds that what he does in his private life is none of my business. However, there are clearly issues of public interest arising from it and seen from the point of view of a hack like myself, there are matters of political interest as well.

The odds must now be against Blunkett surviving this crisis. Slagging off his colleagues in a recently published biography has effectively eroded support for him within the Cabinet and amongst the Parliamentary Labour Party. Now it seems that even his own officials may be briefing against him by alleging that he took the application from his lovers' nanny to a meeting with top level civil servants and used it to illustrate a lack of progress on cutting the waiting times for visas. Even the usually ineffectual Tories are starting to sense blood. At this rate the outcome of the inquiry by Sir Alan Budd may prove to be a side show. The fatal blow may well come instead from the relentless political and media pressure.

As David Blunkett is off-limit I wanted to draw attention to the perils of the internet instead. The Sunday Times reports that people buying their weekly groceries on-line may well be the subject of a rip-off. They say that the Office of Fair Trading has confirmed that it is investigating allegations that some supermarkets are charging higher prices than are advertised on their sites; charging for a premium product and supplying a regular item; charging more for online products than those in store; and using websites to off-load food close to its sell-by date.

Buying groceries on-line is certainly convenient but it is not very environmentally-friendly - it increases the number of vehicle journeys for a start. It is possible that this latest investigation may set back the cause of on-line shopping but that seems unlikely. Presumably those buying goods in this way are aware of the problems but they still go back and do it again. No doubt they do want value for money but if they do not get it many seem to consider it a price worth paying for the convenience of avoiding the weekly trek to the supermarket. Bizarre!

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