Viewers of ITV’s political interview show Peston were probably not surprised to see Iceland MD Richard Walker among the programme’s guests earlier this week. As a regular interviewee on the current affairs TV media circuit, his is not an unfamiliar face.

But we’re used to seeing him act first and foremost as the public face of Iceland. On Peston we witnessed the start of his transition to representing something else: the Tory party.

And quite a rapid transition it was. After his introduction by host Robert Peston as “the boss of Iceland Foods who’s also a Tory candidate”, it soon became clear Walker’s role on the show related more to the latter than former.

He was called on to speak three times by Peston. On each occasion, Walker spoke in defence of Tory politics, once supporting the government’s stance on pay negotiations with nurses, once in a somewhat floundering response to a question on NHS reform and once in a revealing attack on the RMT (“They couldn’t target businesses so they’re targeting our own liberties”).

The only time Iceland came up was as a segue into the question about NHS workers’ pay, as the 4-5% offer on the table was compared with the 9.7% rise the supermarket will be forced to give workers next year as a minimum-wage payer.

This was not about Iceland, but Walker’s new career aspirations. It made the appearance singularly odd. It is one thing for a supermarket boss to speak in support of one party’s politics or criticise another’s. It is another thing for a high-profile business leader to appear to speak on behalf of one political party.

There have been plenty of scandals over MPs having second jobs but usually it is the political role in which they are most known to the public, not the one outside parliament. Walker approaches from the opposite direction, having perhaps the highest public profile in UK grocery today. And while it is good to have business leaders entering politics, including of course from grocery, ideally it wouldn’t come with quite such overlap.

Put on the spot by Peston about why he’d want to be a Tory MP, Walker said: “I think about it every day and a lot of people are questioning it but I believe in democracy.”

It raises the question of whether it is in the interests of democracy for the public face of one of the country’s biggest supermarkets to simultaneously act as a public face of a political party. After all, some viewers may not have quite spotted the transition taking place. Instead, they may simply have thought: ‘Oh, it’s that persuasive supermarket boss again. He knows what he’s talking about. I’ll listen to him.”

Of course, Walker may not actually get the chance to be an MP. He already looked out of his depth on Peston. 

But the mere ambition will not be entirely helpful to Iceland right now. The supermarket must refinance £550m in debt in 2025 and the sight of a boss already embarking on a new career will not make lenders more likely to open their books.

As a City a source told the Grocer this week, “You can’t do both.”

Walker’s appearance on Peston illustrated that you really can’t – and Iceland’s debt woes are not the only reason.