“Now food and fuel is running out” howled the Daily Express this morning. Along with a photo showing empty supermarket shelves – though, on close inspection, this is the bakery part of the store, and that often gets empty by mid afternoon – there are dire forecasts about the UK’s fuel supplies and gas reserves.
And the gas reserve frightener doesn’t stack up: the Express suggests these could run out by January, but there are 67 days’ supplies available, so perhaps the Desmond hackery could spare a moment or two to do the maths. But perhaps there is a grain of truth in all this, so during the day, I’ve been out and about in Crewe to see how folks are coping.
First stop was the rail station, where the retail outlets were well stocked and reasonably busy. But what about fuel? The forecourt opposite the fire station was open, there were no queues, and unless this was an isolated case, nobody in the town is having trouble filling the car. Maybe, though, there could be a food shortage?
Well, no. As it’s Friday, the outdoor market was in full swing, with a butcher and two fruit and veg stalls, and no shortages to be seen. Another butcher’s shop nearby was also well stocked. The Iceland store had full freezer cabinets and huge piles of tinned, well, everything. And so I arrived at Asda, which functions even in the absence of by-elections.
Asda was busy, even for Friday, which is typical in the run-up to Christmas. Despite this, shelves were kept full by the tireless backroom staff. Dairy products – one food type mentioned by the Express – were in plentiful supply. Outside the town centre, takeaways were opening, ready for the evening’s trade.
Maybe Crewe is atypical, but I doubt it: it’s a fairly average middling sized town, and what I saw will be the norm all across the north-west. The traffic is bad, but that is solely down to the time of year – it gets busy as Christmas approaches.
No, the reality is that this is a cheap and nasty piece of scaremongering, an attention grabbing stunt by a once great newspaper which has been transformed by its new owner into a repository of lamentable standards and plain bad journalism.
So expect more of the same tomorrow, then. Makes a change from miracle cancer cures and Muslim bashing.