Morrisons staff pay heavy price

HOW UNFORTUNATE that 2,600 Morrisons staff should pay with their jobs when they’re not to blame for the management failures bedevilling the Bradford-based supermarket chain.

HOW UNFORTUNATE that 2,600 Morrisons staff should pay with their jobs when they’re not to blame for the management failures bedevilling the Bradford-based supermarket chain.

This is the only conclusion to be drawn from yesterday’s announcement by under-fire chief executive Dalton Philips which exposes how out-of-touch the Yorkshire institution has become.

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Put simply, it defies belief that Morrisons has allowed up to seven tiers of management to stand between store bosses and the shoppers that the firm purports to serve, when its founder, Sir Ken Morrison, prided himself on putting customers first at all times.

This has been reflected by the volume of letters sent by exasperated Morrisons shoppers to The Yorkshire Post, many of them bemused by the failure of stores to stock even basic items like skimmed milk.

These are predominantly Yorkshire people who want the store to succeed and feel let down by the change in culture since Sir Ken stepped aside. They’re also unlikely to be swayed by the recently announced price cuts, fledgling online service or the opening of high street convenience stores.

They are individuals who will be waiting to see whether these changes lead to store managers spending more time on the shop floor. A regular presence by the checkouts in Sir Ken’s era, they have become increasingly remote figures and it is this breakdown in the relationship between Morrisons and its clientele that has so angered former directors like Roger Owen and Martin Ackroyd.

In a financial climate where the dominance of the established supermarkets is being challenged by discount retailers, they know that Morrisons needs to provide exemplary service and competitive prices at all times if it is to prosper.

The sadness is that it has taken unparalleled criticism, a stormy AGM and the resignation of chairman Sir Ian Gibson for matters to come to a head, albeit in a manner that is so deeply unsatisfactory for those 
who will lose their jobs as a result.

Bottom of the class

Poor white children left behind

ONE of the most striking aspects about Ukip’s surge in support is that it stems from white working class voters who feel alienated by mainstream politics.

This troubling sense of disconnection is now also visible in schools, with a report by the Education Select Committee warning that poor white British children emerge with worse qualifications than equally poor youngsters from any other major ethnic group.

The implications of this are both obvious and troubling. If poorer white children continue to underperform, they will not only be barred from improving their circumstances through a rewarding career but will be forced to watch their peers from other ethnic groups eclipse them.

Migrants to this country have long recognised the potentially transformative effect of education, but this report exposes the inability or unwillingness of parents from comparable white families to nurture their children.

So how to tackle this growing disengagement? Sir Michael Wilshaw, the Chief Inspector of Schools, would have parents fined if they fail to turn up to parents’ evenings or allow their children’s homework to go undone.

Yet hearts and minds are there to be won – not least at a time when white working class families feel they are being marginalised

The carrot of explaining the benefits of a good education to such parents, rather than the overly simplistic stick of a fine, would be a far more effective means of encouraging them, and their offspring, to prize their education more highly.

Hague’s diplomacy

Should Iran be a friend or foe?

HOW ironic that Iran, one of the “rogue” countries denounced by President George W Bush in his infamous “axis of evil” speech, is emerging as a potential ally of Britain and America as the sectarian crisis in neighbouring Iraq escalates.

It is still unthinkable that Iranian and American forces could take part in a joint operation to halt the Islamist jihadists running amok, but the diplomatic rapprochement underway should be encouraged.

Though Britain had good reason to close its embassy in Tehran in 2011 after it was ransacked, Foreign Secretary William Hague’s quiet perseverance – and the election of a new Iranian president – has paved the way for the restoration of diplomatic relations.

This is important as the Middle East threatens, once again, to implode. As Sir Bernard Ingham makes clear on the opposite page: “To achieve progress, we shall have to deal with some nasty nations while relentlessly pursuing the objective of a better world.”