It was perhaps appropriate that Bill Grimsey chose the Churchill Dining Room in the House of Commons to officially launch his review of the high street.

It was perhaps appropriate that Bill Grimsey chose the Churchill Dining Room in the House of Commons to officially launch his review of the high street.

As I listened to Bill putting forward his case, I noticed Winston’s bust staring down at us all and was reminded of his wilderness years when he also struggled to convince his peers of the folly of inaction and indecision.

Retailers too have had many frustrating years out in the cold, warning about the corrosive effect of such things as excessive rents, business rates and rocketing parking charges, the last two of which have been within the direct control of successive governments.

While there are some questionable elements of the Grimsey Review, it undoubtedly provides an armoury of powerful, well-researched statistics and projections.

These alone make for more compelling reading than the less evidence-based Portas effort. But considering hers was commissioned by the Government and then effectively ignored by it, one has to wonder how much notice will be taken of a report that doesn’t have such auspicious origins.

Politicians are generally motivated by votes or dogma. In that context the disparate nature of our industry, the fickle behaviour of customers and the mixed messages being sent from successive reviews, inquiries and representative bodies doesn’t make for a particularly stable lobbying platform. With 59 key recommendations in two separate reviews, decision makers can easily continue to dodge the issues causing the most harm.

We may not be facing the same dangers that Winston predicted in the 1930s, but significant damage is still being wrought on a sector with a net worth of nearly six times the defence budget. Yet only a few politicians seem to have realised the far reaching implications of this for everyone.

It’s long been apparent that there can be no realistic hope of winning the battle of the high street without genuine engagement from Westminster.

If that isn’t forthcoming soon, many seasoned retail foot soldiers may just as well get on with planning what they’ll be doing on civvy street in a few years’ time.

  • Ian Middleton, Managing director and co-founder, Argenteus