Steve Baldwin, a Southport newsagent, hosted a visit from local parliamentary candidate Brenda Porter this week and we soon learned the benefits and difficulties of such a visit.
The first hurdle is the need to be polite and welcoming. Mrs Porter is a prominent local politician and an acquaintance of Mr Baldwin.
Taking a leaf from the NFRN’s briefing document sent to its members, Mr Baldwin explains the changes to wholesale contracts that mean he has a fixed carriage charge that he must pay. The charge goes up yearly, even if the price of newspapers falls. Mrs Porter had heard this message from other newsagents earlier today and the message is reinforced.
“We do get a good service,” Mr Baldwin says, “But the costs keep going up and we need MPs to keep an eye on it!”
But it is the tobacco display ban where being in store provides a real impetus for Mr Baldwin. “Where will the regulation end?” he asks and Mrs Porter is clearly agreeing that there has been too much.
She agrees with him that children are not likely to be persuaded to smoke by his display. She agrees that clearly there is not much room under his counter to stock cigarettes and hears him explain the security risks that he fears.
“There is quite a bit of smuggled tobacco locally”, he says. They both agree that they have seen a lot of youngsters smoking. Mrs Porter suggests that more needs to be done with their parents.
On the positive side, Mr Baldwin volunteers that the help with business rates has been good. This is not quite the right message for Mrs Porter but is brushed aside with a pleasant smile.
It is a positive, short visit. If Mrs Porter is elected, hopefully she will be back. Mr Baldwin used the opportunity to help this would-be MP visualise where he needs help. Other local shops can do this too.