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John Lewis Partnership weekly sales up by 10 per cent

Stores reported sales of £52.46m for the first week of February.

The John Lewis Partnership -- which operates 35 John Lewis shops across the UK, and 264 Waitrose supermarkets -- has reported sales of £160.92m for the week ended 4 February 2012, an increase of 10.2 per cent compared to the same period a year ago.

John Lewis stores reported sales of £52.46m for the first week of February 2012. Croydon, Poole and Southampton branches reported higher sales margins. showed strong sales with a growth of 8.2 per cent in fashion and 56 per cent in accessories and beauty, respectively.

In a statement, the company said:

The start of a new year and week one ... saw us deliver a good performance overall with a 6 per cent uplift on last year. We had three branches with very good double-figure increases ... Croydon with an increase on last year of 19.1 per cent, followed by Poole at 17.4 per cent and Southampton with 13.1 per cent.

Waitrose supermarkets, which recently opened new locations in Walton-le-Dale, Preston and Ipswich, recorded sales of £108.45m for the first week of February 2012, an increase of 12.3 per cent compared with same period previous year.

"Freezing temperatures across the country saw total sales at Waitrose rise by 12.3 per cent last week, as shoppers kept warm with comfort foods," the company added.

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No, David Cameron’s speech was not “left wing”

Come on, guys.

There is a strange journalistic phenomenon that occurs when a party leader makes a speech. It is a blend of groupthink, relief, utter certainty, and online backslapping. It happened particularly quickly after David Cameron’s speech to Tory party conference today. A few pundits decided that – because he mentioned, like, diversity and social mobility – this was a centre-left speech. A leftwing speech, even. Or at least a clear grab for the liberal centre ground. And so that’s what everyone now believes. The analysis is decided. The commentary is written. Thank God for that.

Really? It’s quite easy, even as one of those nasty, wicked Tories, to mention that you actually don’t much like racism, and point out that you’d quite like poor children to get jobs, without moving onto Labour's "territory". Which normal person is in favour of discriminating against someone on the basis of race, or blocking opportunity on the basis of class? Of course he’s against that. He’s a politician operating in a liberal democracy. And this isn’t Ukip conference.

Looking at the whole package, it was actually quite a rightwing speech. It was a paean to defence – championing drones, protecting Britain from the evils of the world, and getting all excited about “launching the biggest aircraft carriers in our history”.

It was a festival of flagwaving guff about the British “character”, a celebration of shoehorning our history chronologically onto the curriculum, looking towards a “Greater Britain”, asking for more “national pride”. There was even a Bake Off pun.

He also deployed the illiberal device of inculcating a divide-and-rule fear of the “shadow of extremism – hanging over every single one of us”, informing us that children in UK madrassas are having their “heads filled with poison and their hearts filled with hate”, and saying Britain shouldn’t be “overwhelmed” with refugees, before quickly changing the subject to ousting Assad. How unashamedly centrist, of you, Mr Prime Minister.

Benefit cuts and a reduction of tax credits will mean the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm for “equality of opportunity, as opposed to equality of outcome” will be just that – with the outcome pretty bleak for those who end up losing any opportunity that comes with state support. And his excitement about diversity in his cabinet rings a little hollow the day following a tubthumping anti-immigration speech from his Home Secretary.

If this year's Tory conference wins the party votes, it’ll be because of its conservative commitment – not lefty love bombing.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.