Whoops! Silly old Co-op, failing to live up to its usual ethical standards and everything! It’s a far cry from the old days when the Rochdale Pioneers first banded together to flog clogs and whippet food and pay out a divi on tripe. I couldn’t afford to do that around Westminster.

The Co-op’s Mrs Whitfield (I did like her in Terry & June) has already paid an extra divi of half a million or so as a goodwill gesture back to suppliers - that’s an awful lot of little blue stamps. But the real problem for those of us who religiously obey the Groceries Code is that it’s got Mrs Tacon all excited again.

co-op sign

She didn’t have much luck with Tesco (I’m sure that was only because they always treat their suppliers scrupulously fairly), but if she’s worked out that the smaller guys are easier to pick off then it can’t be long before I get a midnight knock from those elegantly gloved hands.

Happily I’ve nothing to fear. When you work at my end of the business, taking advantage of suppliers consists largely of whipping an extra tub of Sherbet Flying Saucers (£11 + VAT/500pcs) off the van while the rep is in the loo. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve certainly tried to use my purchasing leverage to bully Unilever and P&G, but thus far my summonses to my special negotiation centre in the cellar of a condemned abattoir off the Whitechapel Road have gone unanswered.

Ah well, I’m fortunate at least in working out of London, and not in traditional centres of state-sponsored terrorism like Wiltshire. I’m not taking sides in that debate, but if Mr Yakovenko the Russian ambassador drops by to stock up on caviar and knish he’s going to find out what contamination really means, mark my words!