Schadenfreude – glee at others’ misfortunes – is always a tempting attitude to adopt when a powerful business gets into trouble. It’s rarely been more tempting than when the business we’re talking about is the surely overmighty retail giant Tesco.
Iain Murray, in his column in our latest issue, is amused by Tesco’s woes, as are many commentators, but his remarks have made me think. Tesco has been a highly effective British-owned business, expanding around the world. It would be a pity to see it fail and be replaced by foreign-owned retailers.
I’ve nothing against foreign investment. In Britain we’re very lucky that we get lots of it. Some people don’t like it, but we have a very outward-looking economy, closely integrated with the rest of Europe and the world economy. Many of the companies that supply to and buy from British agriculture are foreign-owned and much the better for it, but it would be nice if Britain could actually manage to keep some of its top businesses going on its own. We don’t seem to be very good at it. Tesco used to be one of the exceptions. Let’s not be too quick to celebrate its sufferings.