Now I don't normally blog too much about these meetings, unless there is something which warrants bringing to a wider audience. This morning we had just such an event. Poppy, the local Green party parliamentary for Chipping Barnet candidate addressed the meeting. One may think that of all the parties, the Greens share the least common ground with the small business communitee. I would certainly have jumped to this ill informed conclusion, but in actual fact, Poppy did an excellent job to dispel this impression.
So this morning I set off for Cafe Buzz for the regular first Monday of the month network meeting. This normally is a chance to catch up with a other local business owners, make new contacts and have a very pleasant breakfast. This morning it was freezing when I set off (see picture below), in fact as I have damaged my ankle, I thought twice about going. Bed seemed a better option. Anyway, you don't get to be Barnets top blogger by lying around in bed on a Monday morning!
She used the meeting to canvass business owners and find their views on how we can enrich and enliven our High Streets. The Green Party are supportive of the concept of local micro businesses, rather than huge multinational conglomorates, who siphon cash away and avoid paying taxes.
Poppy used her presentation to discuss some of the feedback. She spoke of the need for better public transport for local High Streets. Ideas mooted were free bus services on a Saturday, periods of free parking in local bays. Poppy noted that large supermarkets and centres such as Brent Cross have free parking, allowing their huge multinational chains an advantage over the small local High Street retailers. This cannot be fair. She talked about using local markets to reinvigorate the High Street and bring footfall in, but not in a way that canibalises the existing local trade. She said a recurring thing is that many see local High streets more as a destination for cafe's, restaurants and niche outlets, rather than for your weekly shop. I tend to think this is more true for affluent areas suchg as Mill Hill than working class ones sugh as Burnt Oak, where there is a thriving and vibrant retail environment, catering for the specific needs of the locality. It is interesting that you can get a better selection of fresh fish in Burnt Oak than you can in Mill Hill, which has a far higher retail turnover. Is there a lesson there for us.
Michael Lassman who organises the events has done a brilliant job in setting the events up. He's organising for the next three events before the election to have candidates from the other main parties. It is good for business to engage with politics.
As for Poppy, much as I love her and believe her heart is firmly in the right place, I think that the Greens have zero chance of doing anything in the Borough of Barnet other than splitting the progressive vote. I think this is a real shame, because the House of Commons would benefit from a few MP's who are concerned about sustainability rather than vested interests and corporate sponsors. I've thought long and hard and it is a scandal that in the UK a party can have a majority in Parliamemnt with 37% of the vote. That means that 63%, the majority, have no representation at all. Whatever you may think of the Tories and Labour, it is 100% clear that both represent very clearly defined powerful vested interests. In a grown up, sensible democracy, we should have a bit more consensus. The one thing all of our mass media are keeping very quiet about is the fact that under the Coalition (love it ot hate it), we are now seeing the UK economy performing at levels far better than the rest of the developed world. Strangely no one has thought to say "Hang on, maybe the fact that decisions are agreed between two parties has resulted in a better quality of decision being made". None of us know what state the economy would have been in had David Cameron had an absolute majority or had Gordon Brown managed to secure another term. What I do know, is that under the coalition, our national GDP is increasing at levels unheard of under either Tory or Labour governments, compared to our nearest competetors.
One thing I've learned in life is that no matter how good a plan I've come up with, it has aways become a better plan when I've discussed it with another intelligent person and asked for their input. I cannot believe that George Osborne's economic planning has not benefitted from some rigorous analysis from his Lib Dem colleagues, in a way that a bunch of his own colleagues, keen to jostle for promotion and favour would not.
As a nation, we really need to have a long hard look at our political structures. I think everyone was impressed that Poppy came down and talked to business owners. I think most would feel she could play a positive role in the way we run our community. If this is the case, is it a good thing that our political system excludes her and the 13% of the electorate she represents. I am not a Green and I would not vote for them, but to exclude them is completely anti democratic. It does our country no favours at all.
If you run a small business and want to meet other business owners, pencil in the first Monday of every month, 8am at Cafe Buzz. It is well worth the effort. It costs £5 and you get a drink and a snack for yoru money. If you are lucky (or unlucky) you may even get to say Hi to me!