When Ken Murphy, the boss of Britain’s biggest supermarket chain Tesco, spoke out last month against the tide of shoplifting and violence against staff at stores, he lit a blue touchpaper.
He has performed a valuable public service. Until he highlighted it in our sister paper The Mail on Sunday, which has launched an anti-shoplifting campaign, the epidemic of theft and thuggery in shops was not being taken seriously enough.
The silence was part of the problem, because it enabled ministers and police chiefs to ignore it. But when the chief executive of Tesco speaks, it’s a game-changer: everyone has to listen.
His intervention has kept retail crime at the top of the news agenda everywhere. With all due deference to Russell Brand, it is hard to think of a topic that has struck such a nerve. Murphy and the CEOs of 80 other stores are this week asking for a meeting with Home Secretary Suella Braverman to present her with their demands for changes in the law and tougher policing.
A strong stance on shoplifting would be a vote winner for the Conservatives.
The current climate of cynicism and impunity, where most offences go unpunished, is an affront to many voters. At the core of this is the misconception that shoplifting is a minor or victimless crime, apparently shared by singer Robbie Williams, who made ill-judged jokes on social media.
One wonders what his fans who work in retail made of that.
Shoplifting is non-trivial. It is going up at a time when reported crime in general is falling: there were more than 342,000 cases in the year to March, an increase of nearly 25 per cent on the year before. Those figures, almost certainly, are under-estimated.
Source of data and images: dailymail