Tesco's a lumbering beast, but it's moving in the right direction

Today's results show some progress.

Tesco results were out today. It's group sales increased by 2.6 per cent in the 26 weeks to 24 August 2013, it's UK sales were up by 1.1 per cent and its UK LFLs were down by 0.5 per cent.

Tesco is a huge retailer, which means that the pace of change will always be slow. Today's results suggest it is moving, albeit slowly, in the right direction though.

Neil Saunders says:

"The most encouraging sign of progress within the UK comes from the fact that within the period, the second quarter numbers showed an uptick in trading performance comparative to the first quarter: LFLs in Q1 were down 0.9 per cent whereas LFLs in Q2 were flat. Admittedly, this represents a stabilisation rather than a turnaround, but it is progress of a sort and does reflect the various initiatives that have gone into redeveloping the customer proposition."

The most critical initiatives, he says, have been the improvement of the store environment and "experience", lots of changing around in the food range, and some forrays into non-food, namely clothing.

"The international picture", he says, "looks increasingly worrying. European results were weak, with LFLs down by 5.0 per cent. Some of this continues to be driven by negative economic headwinds affecting Central and Eastern Europe, but part of it is also linked to a structural shift as consumers in some markets switch away from larger store formats leaving Tesco, and other players, exposed. The picture in Asia is little better with trading in Korea impacted by regulatory restrictions and the Thai economy dipping into recession."

Little surprise then that Tesco has moved away from expansion and into stabilisation - it knows where the issues are and is addressing them.

"It will have to work increasingly hard to get the whole group back firing on all cylinders but the management capability, resources and focus are all in place to meet that challenge", says Neil Saunders.

Tesco. Photograph: Getty Images
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Benn vs McDonnell: how Brexit has exposed the fight over Labour's party machine

In the wake of Brexit, should Labour MPs listen more closely to voters, or their own party members?

Two Labour MPs on primetime TV. Two prominent politicians ruling themselves out of a Labour leadership contest. But that was as far as the similarity went.

Hilary Benn was speaking hours after he resigned - or was sacked - from the Shadow Cabinet. He described Jeremy Corbyn as a "good and decent man" but not a leader.

Framing his overnight removal as a matter of conscience, Benn told the BBC's Andrew Marr: "I no longer have confidence in him [Corbyn] and I think the right thing to do would be for him to take that decision."

In Benn's view, diehard leftie pin ups do not go down well in the real world, or on the ballot papers of middle England. 

But while Benn may be drawing on a New Labour truism, this in turn rests on the assumption that voters matter more than the party members when it comes to winning elections.

That assumption was contested moments later by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

Dismissive of the personal appeal of Shadow Cabinet ministers - "we can replace them" - McDonnell's message was that Labour under Corbyn had rejuvenated its electoral machine.

Pointing to success in by-elections and the London mayoral election, McDonnell warned would-be rebels: "Who is sovereign in our party? The people who are soverign are the party members. 

"I'm saying respect the party members. And in that way we can hold together and win the next election."

Indeed, nearly a year on from Corbyn's surprise election to the Labour leadership, it is worth remembering he captured nearly 60% of the 400,000 votes cast. Momentum, the grassroots organisation formed in the wake of his success, now has more than 50 branches around the country.

Come the next election, it will be these grassroots members who will knock on doors, hand out leaflets and perhaps even threaten to deselect MPs.

The question for wavering Labour MPs will be whether what they trust more - their own connection with voters, or this potentially unbiddable party machine.