A good high street is at the heart of its community. If it’s taken over by anti-social gangs of youths and swathes of empty shops, it can’t serve that role.

The UK may have officially come out of recession this week, but while we might have just scraped back into growth, the most visible barometer of the health of the economy is still on the critical list. And its condition is worsening.

Our high streets have been in a gentle decline for years. But with the impact of the recession and collapses like Woolies, the slide has accelerated to a headlong dive.

It doesn’t have to be like this. And one of the only good things to come out of the current problems is that politicians can no longer ignore the desolation of the shopping streets and parades in their constituencies.

A healthy high street matters to the vast majority of retailers. If a competitor goes out of business, that might have a short-term benefit. But if your store is surrounded by empty shops the customers just won’t come.

But it should be important to politicians too. A good high street is at the very heart of its community. If it’s taken over by anti-social gangs of youths and blighted by swathes of empty shops, it can’t serve that role. It’s about the most visible example of social and economic decline there can be.

Our Manifesto for the High Street isn’t about pitching town centres against out-of-town or online retail. All three have their roles that fulfil different shopping missions. What it is about is saying there is an urgent need to carve out a new future for the high street, and over the next four weeks, and at our high street conference in March, we’ll be examining how this can happen.

Look at our manifesto, and let us know what you think via our forum at retail-week.com/highstreet. We’ll be sending the results to all three major parties ahead of the general election. There’s no better time for retailers large and small to force them into action.

Night with the X Factor

The X Factor-themed Retail Trust dinner on Monday night wasn’t just a great party, but an evening that showed just how generous the industry is in supporting its own. To raise £1m in one night is an achievement both the industry and its charity can be immensely proud of.

It’s a good thing too, because the recession has had a brutal impact on many formerly employed in our sector. It’s right that retailers come together as they did this week to support former colleagues who’ve fallen on hard times.