Cost of living indexes are all the rage, don't you know. The Daily Mail's got one, so too the Express. And with a little help from The Grocer, the Daily Mirror launched one earlier this week.
Even the supermarkets are at it. At first glance a cost of living report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, published in The Times on Thursday, looked kosher, reporting food price inflation running at between 4.1% at Asda; and 6.1% at Tesco. But it turns out that the CEBR report was actually commissioned by Asda. Hmm. A point The Times declined to mention. Hmm.
Now, we could get picky about the methodology, which was based on a single week. Our own survey, The Grocer Price Index, averages out prices over a month, to accommodate kinks from promotions. (The last time we looked, Asda prices were actually rising faster than their rivals', though as we pointed out, it was from a lower base, and was still the cheapest supermarket.) But based on 750 items in the ONS basket it was certainly more robust than the 24-item basket of goods from mysupermarket, which have supplied The Mail, The Times and countless other media with their sensational food price inflation headlines over the past month. And any report that focuses media attention away from this totally non-representative basket is a good thing.
With those lurid headlines even prompting Alistair Darling to invite supermarket and food manufacturer representatives to attend a briefing at No11 this week, the report provides a more accurate framework in which the government can consider food inflation. I've seen fuel and food price inflation lumped in the same bracket. At 17% for petrol and 23% for diesel, I think I know the true villain of the inflation piece.