Monday, 5 October 2009

Dancing in the aisles

After The Sun's announcement that it's deserting Labour, there's a kind of poetic justice in the decision by Waitrose to boycott that other arm of the Murdoch empire, Fox News. It seems the supermarket's customers are unhappy about its ads appearing alongside the increasingly unhinged anti-Obama rants of right-wing loon Glenn Beck:
"We take the placement of our ads in individual programmes very seriously, ensuring the content of these programmes is deemed appropriate for a brand with our values," said a customer services spokesman. "Since being notified of our presence within the Glenn Beck programme, we have withdrawn all Waitrose advertising from the Fox News channel with immediate effect and for all future TV advertising campaigns."
Some may be surprised at this outburst of political sensitivity from an upscale high street food retailer, but remember that Waitrose is part of the John Lewis chain. And as my nephew (who has a Saturday job on a Waitrose fish counter) reminded me recently, the founder of the department store chain, John Spedan Lewis, was a radical entrepreneur who established a system of employee ownership which continues to this day. I had some experience of this when the adult education project I was running in the '80s was approached by the local John Lewis store to provide literacy classes for some of its employees, who were always referred to as 'partners', however lowly their job. OK, so it's not exactly workers' control, but it's better than nothing.

I'm no great fan of boycotts, but it's surely a healthy sign that a number of companies, including Wal-Mart, have now decided to pull their ads from the Beck show, because they fear being 'tainted by association'. How long before the Republican Party wakes up to the fact that its brand is being similarly compromised, and distances itself from the Becks, Bachmans, Palins, Limbaughs and other assorted birthers, death-panellists and conspiracy-theorists?

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