The ongoing recessional issue of employment has combined with party politics and the BBC’s alleged leanings to combustible effect, with Work and Pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith making a formal complaint to the broadcaster over its coverage of Coalition jobs policy.
Particularly in Smith’s crosshairs is BBC News economics editor Stephanie Flanders, who the Tory minister has accused of “peeing all over” British industry with relentless “carping and moaning” about government efforts to stimulate the labour market. Smith considers Flanders’ stance – and that of the BBC overall – a distortion, and says that the corporation has purposefully excluded recent employment surges from its news agenda in line with a pro-Labour bias.
Continuing the employment theme, David Cameron has urged his ministerial rank and file to throw their weight behind £30bn plans for a barrage in the Severn estuary that will harness wave power – a hugely ambitious public-works scheme that could lead to the creation of 20,000 jobs. With the government apparently “scrambling” to find a large-scale infrastructure project to plug workers into, the barrage presents a ripe opportunity for Cameron and his colleagues to create an employment success story – but a complex equation involving potential environmental impacts and actually funding the build needs to be solved first.
Another issue with implications for jobs rose to the fore over the weekend, with Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King making a plea for the relaxation of Sunday trading laws – underway until the end of the Paralympics – to not be extended once the Games have finished. Set out in a letter to the Sunday Telegraph, King’s stance is unusual at a time when Asda boss Andy Clark has given his blessing to a permanent relaxation of the laws. Nonetheless, King wrote: “Maintaining Sunday’s special status has great merit for our customers and our colleagues, and relaxing Sunday trading laws is certainly not a magic answer to economic regeneration.”
FirstGroup – the travel operator that recently managed the uncanny feat of besting and infuriating Richard Branson by wresting control of the West Coast line – has announced plans for a “premium economy” service on the route to take better care of commuters. The company’s chief executive Tim O’Toole has explained that, from his observation of Eurostar, customers are often not convinced to go all the way up to First Class – but they “do like the class where they get more value”. The new service grade will be introduced as part of wider upgrade plans, which will be set in motion once FirstGroup formally takes over the line in December.
If you think that there have been too many rubbish 3D movies out there lately that only exist to make money off the format’s marked-up ticket prices, then you’re in good company: Cineworld boss Stephen Wiener thinks exactly the same thing. In his view, studios have been rush-releasing technically subpar 3D efforts to capitalise on the trend. But Wiener says that the UK’s biggest films of recent months have been the amusing and family-oriented Ice Age 4, an example of technically competent 3D filmmaking, and the non-3D quality franchise-closer The Dark Knight Rises – both of which have generated considerable repeat business. Wiener also reports that Cineworld profits doubled to £13.4m in the first half of 2012, accompanied by a 48% increase in the number of Mycineworld loyalty card holders.
The latest series of The X-Factor has ruffled the feathers of ol’ Grumpy Chops himself, Lord Alan Sugar, who took to Twitter at the weekend to vent his feelings about show judge and former N-Dub, Tulisa Contostavlos. Wading into the online celeb-feud battleground with all guns blazing, the inexplicably not-busy-enough entrepreneur tweeted: “Can you tell me who the hell this Tulisa bird is on X factor, she’s in the celeb section of the sun and mirror every day. What has she done?”
Tulisa: you’re fired.