The name of Hurendra Bhatt’s business says it all: Universal News. That’s what he sells. He’s located in the forecourt of Highbury & Islington tube station in North London. He is both meticulous about the invoices he receives (“I have a very fine tooth comb.”) and astute - he is surrounded by media (“Half the BBC live round here.”) so he isn’t shy in going to the media, or his supplier - in this case Smiths News - to point out where they are going wrong.
He sent me photos of his delivery of Old Ben lottery tickets and his return of same. Four weeks later he is still waiting to get his money back. Old Ben is the nickname of the NewstrAid Benevolent Fund which is undoubtedly a good cause, but Hurendra objects to the way Smiths repeatedly sends out unwanted items. A fine example is the Sunday Morning Star. He doesn’t open on Sundays so they send it on Monday instead.
Instead of deducting the cost of these items from the bill, he sends them back to the Borehamwood depot in Hertfordshire so that they can tell the West Yorkshire accounting centre and he will eventually get credit.
“I follow proper channels and leave it in their good hands, but now and then you have to step on their hand and twist their arm,” he says.
I mentioned Hurendra’s use of media to moan about his media supplier. It could be worse, Smiths. Jezza Corbyn is a customer, although less regular these days. Neither does he see BoJo as often - not since Boris has been made foreign secretary.