NAPOLEON Bonaparte famously called England “a nation of shopkeepers”. More than two centuries later, we’re becoming a nation of selfish hypocrites.
Why? All those who profess to support their High Street and local shops are the self-same people now buying in bulk on the internet throughout the year.
They’re also the same individuals who then have the temerity to complain about the proliferation of delivery vans that are adding to Yorkshire’s traffic woes.
Even though the economic outlook is not as desperate as it has been in the past decade, when Christmas has claimed a number of high-profile retail casualties, the outlook is far from certain for many niche independent stores.
They are in a fight for survival – they can’t compete with the major superstores and the ‘open all hours’ online retailers – and I don’t envy the decisions that some proprietors will have to take.
They’re not helped by those local authorities that insist on applying draconian parking charges while giving superstores carte blanche to build as many free spaces as they like.
It’s why today’s Small Business Saturday, now in its fifth year, is one American import that should be commended. Unless local traders are supported, starting today, Napoleon’s words of the past will be redundant.
What can be done? Given that a majority of families will, in all likelihood, order online this month, could everyone – as a gesture of goodwill – choose instead to make a couple of purchases from a local shop?
If more people did so before they clicked ‘place order’ on their computer or mobile phone, Yorkshire’s high streets might – just – survive the festive period and continue employing staff. The same if families supported the local greengrocer, baker and butcher, where the unrivalled quality of fresh produce invariably puts the big supermarkets to shame.
If not, society will only have itself to blame if specialist shops shut down and roads become more clogged up with delivery vehicles. The choice is yours.
PARLIAMENTARY procedure continues to infuriate and let down democracy. Monday’s debate on the Budget saw backbench contributions curtailed to just a couple of minutes – with interventions discouraged.
A succession of unenthused politicians, heads down, just read out their pre-written text. There was no debate – a state of affairs that does not allow MPs to develop their ideas and oratory skills.
Of the Yorkshire politicians who contributed, only Colne Valley MP Thelma Walker mentioned Crossrail for the North while Richmond MP’s Rishi Sunak passionate speech, strong on economics, made no reference to this county’s needs.
It brings me to my final point. Later on, there were three spiky speeches – in quick succession – from newly-elected, and passionate, Scottish Tories quick to take credit for various Budget measures.
It was summed up by Paul Masterton, the East Renfrewshire MP, who took a swipe with the SNP with this conclusion: “We already know one thing for certain: that 12 brand new Scottish Conservative MPs have delivered more for Scotland in five months than 56 noisy but ultimately useless ‘Nats’ managed to deliver in two years.”
When are Yorkshire and the Humber’s 56 MPs going to pull together? Though this week’s formation of a Northern Powerhouse All Party Parliamentary Group is a help, I still think they could – and should – be exerting more collective influence on our behalf.
A REVEALING exchange with a former Cabinet minister from John Major’s era earlier this week.
Why, I pondered, were Theresa May and her Downing Street team not making more use of former ministers, and their experience, when it comes to Brexit, EU affairs and her domestic agenda?
“I wish I knew!” came the reply.
Given that past and present ministers should be united by a desire for the Conservative Party to remain in power, Mrs May should be welcoming the counsel of party grandees rather than relying upon the next generation of young upstarts who know little about politics – or life.
ONE opportunity continues to be overlooked with the Government’s ambitious new housebuilding targets – why aren’t Ministers saying that the new homes will be built with solar panels from the outset and insulated to the very highest standards?
Such a move would be an investment in the nation’s future sustainability – it just requires joined-up thinking when it comes to housing, energy, industry and planning policy.
JUST for the record, Sheffield Hallam’s so-called MP, Jared O’Mara, was a no-show at Tuesday’s Commons vote on the Budget. I take it that the Labour backbencher, still to make his maiden speech, had no obections to the Tory party’s finance plans. Perhaps he’d care to let his constituents know.
NO Yorkshire contender on the BBC Sports Personality of the Year shortlist. No rugby player. And no mention whatsoever of the very best pound-for-pound sportsman in Britain in 2017 – the charismatic jockey Frankie Dettori, 46, who enjoyed, arguably, a career-best year thanks to multiple big race successes with horse of a lifetime Enable.
He still has more ‘personality’ than each of the lucky 12 on the shortlist.
AS armchair pundits study all the permeations following yesterday’s World Cup draw in Moscow, my prediction for next summer’s tournament in Russia is a realistic one – England will be home before the postcards.