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I spend quite a bit of time in my day job speaking to MPs about the big issues that affect independent retailers – from tobacco and alcohol legislation to Sunday trading laws and planning rules. The decisions taken on these important subjects have big implications for how shopkeepers do their business, and so it makes sense to raise the subject with MPs, to get it onto the political agenda, and where appropriate agitate for change.
Politicians have to be savvy about the media these days because a foolish remark can leave them looking like a prat with so much egg on their face you could mistake them for a sort of human omelette. I’m thinking particularly of George Osborne and David Cameron’s recent Pasty Tax debacle in which they tied themselves in knots trying to appear as men of the people by scoffing pies in front of salivating film crews. But it spectacularly backfired when it emerged they had their facts wrong and in all likelihood hadn’t eaten a pasty before that for several years.
Conservative MP Nadine Dorries bravely called the pair something along the lines of ‘posh boys who don’t know the price of milk’. I have to confess that I probably couldn’t tell you within 10p the price of a pint of milk, but Ms Dorries’ point – something that a lot of people have long suspected – is that our country is currently being run by an elite bunch of grown up rich kids who are simply out of touch with normal life. Maybe she is wrong, and wallpaper dynasty heir George Osborne has his finger right on the pulse of the working man’s modern life. But I doubt it.
There are many MPs who do an excellent job in speaking out boldly about the issues that matter to retailers (witness Mike Weatherley’s and Roberta Blackman-Woods’ comments about money lending on the front of this week’s Retail Express.) But sometimes you wonder how much the party leaders are really listening.
So here’s a question for you: have you ever written to or met with your MP to talk about the things that affect your business, and if so what response did you get? *Can anyone think of a sure-fire way of getting your MP’s attention?
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