Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Did David Cameron Do Wrong, Or Did He Act Just Like The Rest Of Us?

One of my blog readers emailed me with a link to an interesting, and slightly embarrassing story in the Oxford Mail.

It seems that in his annual constituency newsletter, the MP for Witney (David Cameron MP) has urged the members of his constituency to "keep trade local",  however a recipient of that newsletter has noticed that the very newsletter in which this plea is made was not printed locally, but was actually printed in Surrey. This is obviously a little embarrassing.

David Cameron’s spokesperson Caroline Preston replies

“In this instance, the printing of the newsletter was organised and paid for by Conservative Party headquarters and I understand it was necessary to use their contracted printers to ensure costs were kept down and because of timescale constraints.

“With all printing requirements which are commissioned locally, it is our policy to use local printers wherever possible.

“This newsletter was paid for by local party funds and not from any Parliamentary allowance.”

“David uses local printers for things like his Christmas cards, 18th birthday cards and surgery posters and will continue do so.

“For all local authority elections each year the Conservative Party in west Oxfordshire also uses local printers on every possible occasion to print its election leaflets, posters, calling cards, etc.”

The Oxford Mail then links in the closing of a local press in Witney which led to 106 redundancies for force of effect.

The Oxford Mail however fails to obtain or discolse competitive quotes for comparison or disclose if the disgruntled complainer is affiliated to a competing political party.

It is an interesting story, because not only could you take either point of view as correct, it reflects the choice many of us have to make in our own lives. Just about everybody will proclaim the need for strong local businesses, it is unquestionably important to our economy and society; but we are, naturally enough often influenced by price.

As regular readers will know, I am in my first year of marriage, and it is not easy getting by. The deciding factor on nearly everything in the past few years has been the price. Today’s lunch was Tesco Value bread, Value Ham, Value Chicken and Value Mayo, this would be a consistent representation of my lunch box. We could not and probably will not anytime soon be able to afford to shop at a local butcher / baker / green grocer / local store. I am trying to do right by my family by putting food on the table, but conversely local tradespersons suffer when I have to go to the nearest supermarket. Yet, Supermarkets also employ at lot of people too, many of them locally; I am sure it is not as nice as working in a local store, or learning a trade but it is people in jobs.

So what is the answer? At what point does a person, family, MP or business morally need to stop looking at price, and put other concerns first, and how can that trade off be measured, so that it can be effective? Should my social conscience really be troubled by such decisions and if so, could I or any person ever be in a situation where by that conscience is completely untroubled? If so, why?

Are we not expecting too much of others?  If not, what is the rule?

I don’t have answers but I think it is an interesting subject. I do think it is a matter to be decided as individuals (people, families, MP's or company decision makers) as they alone have to weigh up what to do; and every single decision is weighted by different factors. I think it would be very hard to take a consistently local theme, [unless one were completely loaded]. As good as it would be to print locally, if David Cameron was overpaying for a local printer the opposition could claim he is using constituency funds to buy votes, or they could claim to not be in sufficient control of the local finances. It's a lose/lose.  Though, it is clearly a double standard to espouse the notion of supporting local trade in a publication then made elsewhere.

I guess it is the response and the attitude that is more interesting than the predicament itself. There is no formula that can decide when paying too much locally demands it be reasonable to seek price further away [or is there??]. I am sure there are people who are seldom price sensitive and are able to help local trade more, it does not mean that they do.

I know there are lots of people that need to take price as first or primary concern, because that more accurately describes more people that I know and interact with. Personally I would like to shop more locally, but the cost is noticeable higher. I am in a lose/lose situation as well.

Does anybody have a rule for themselves or their business that they follow and would be prepared to share on such matters? And how would your rules have effected David Cameron’s decision to print in Surrey on this occasion?


Tarquin said...

hmm, good question - surely it's a fundamental problem with capitalism, trying to find the cheapest source but at the same time protect our own localities

I am a heartless bastard and go for the cheapest option, hoping local people find a niche...which corporations will probably move into later

Am I really qualified to answer this? Probably not - I recommend two south park episodes - 'gnomes' and 'something wall-mart this way comes'

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