I edit the politics section over at Kettle Magazine, where I contributed to other sections (I occasionally still do) before I got the position – this was my earlier pieces that didn’t make it.
Try and guess why…
Students in Essex are finding that a row over what brand of coffee should be served on campus is leaving behind a bitter taste.
A row has broken out at the University of Essex over whether the union in Colchester should switch to serving Starbucks coffee.
Proponents have said that they prefer to taste. That’s it. Those against it have cited Starbucks’ industrial scale tax avoidance, anti-globalisation concerns, and the working conditions of the coffee growers.
It’s a battle of style in a substance.
On the Yes campaign’s official page (yes, that really exists), they said “If you agree that the usual motley crew that are up in arms about this should take a chill pill and focus on more important issues, give this a share!” Somewhat ignoring one rather important point…
The current coffee served is CafeDirect – Fairtrade coffee which promises “we pay growers what they deserve, instead of paying middlemen” and investing more than half their profits in their growers. An ethically sound choice, then.
But, as can be expected from a university in the same county as the now-infamous “scripted reality” show “The Only Way Is Essex” – best known for its preponderance of orange-faced numpties who aren’t too clued up on current affairs – it seems that many of the students are putting taste and style over ethics.
Speaking to The Guardian, Essex student union rep George Johnson said that Starbucks should be avoided because of “Their corporation tax avoidance, their ridiculous overpricing and the fact that they make bad coffee.”
So, to sum up – it’s overpriced rubbish (and they avoid paying tax)? Mr Johnson makes some good points, but he misses one big point: there is already a Starbucks in Colchester.
Surely, if the students of Colchester care so much about the brand of hot caffeinated beverage that they want to fritter away their student loan on, surely they can make it to the town’s own shrine to high prices and loose ethics?
Does it really matter to them so much, that they’d rather see workers get paid less by cartels in some of the world’s most deprived countries, just so that they can enjoy a pumpkin iced latte? You could ask them that, but the opening line of their Facebook page just says it all: “Why does everything have to turn into politics all the time?” Ye Gods.
But wait! Perhaps there’s something on this page with which they might be able to redeem themselves. Let’s see…well, they describe the idea of serving Starbucks coffee is ‘innovative’ – it’s not. It’s sold in hospitals, universities, and trains among other places. This is not a new idea.
Further down the page, an admin posted “Remember, this page is…not a forum for people to ram their views down our throats. Disagreeing with someone and quoting the Guardian doesn’t make you more intelligent.” Indeed not, but just over six weeks later they linked to the Guardian’s piece on them in a move somewhat reminiscent of tactics in the ongoing campaigns for and against Scottish independence.
Similarly, those campaigns are full of morons, too.