The main parties’ manifestos and policy pledges have been long on headline-grabbing gestures but short on ambition or detail.
“An increased minimum wage, a reduction in taxes, more money spent on the NHS, better pensions, greater investment in schools, and a reduction in the deficit. Perhaps we should have an election every year,” proclaimed a letter in one of the national newspapers this month.
As a snapshot of all that has been wrong with this election it was as insightful as any commentary I have seen over the past few weeks.
“For those looking for answers to how the next administration will support the retail sector it has been frustrating”
Manifestos and policy pledges have been long on headline-grabbing gestures but short on either the ambition or detail needed to address the challenges and opportunities retailers – and indeed the country – will face over the next five years.
For those looking for answers to how the next administration will support the retail sector as it seeks to create growth and jobs it has been frustrating that the debate has been so narrow.
Primarily it has focused too much on how to redistribute wealth, rather than create it – or to use a metaphor, how to cut the cake rather than grow so there is more to go round.
While the rhetoric has centred on public spending, who gets what, and who will pay for it, the opportunity to create and articulate a vision for an economy underpinned by broad-based growth that would benefit all has been missed.
Moreover, too many of the road blocks and potential pitfalls that stand between UK Plc and that goal are at best footnotes in the manifestos and at worst ignored altogether.
Issues raised by the Retail Week manifesto, launched in March, such as improvements in the digital capabilities of school leavers and the technological infrastructure of the country as well as a credible alternative to an archaic business rates system have been sidelined.
Moreover, neither of the two main parties have confronted the key constitutional issues of the day, which have the potential to derail the UK economy.
For the Conservatives, huge uncertainty remains over their position on Europe. Meanwhile, Labour has danced around the prospect of a potential coalition with the Scottish National Party and what it might mean for the future of the UK.
Each of these has implications for retail, British business and indeed all of us on the way to the ballot box next week.
At the moment it looks as if a hung parliament remains very much in prospect. Whatever side of the fence you sit on, the electorate and retailers deserved more. Whoever comes out on top, retailers still have a job to do in order for the industry’s value to be recognised in Parliament.