After the department store House of Fraser’s announced that they’re shutting down half of their outlets a load of Tory apologists suddenly began astroturfing the Internet to posit the most absurd excuses for it.
One of the most common excuses was that department stores like House of Fraser simply can’t compete with online retailers like Amazon and Ebay.
The obvious flaw in this line of defence is that there’s nothing more inherently efficient about online retailers, especially given the extra transportation overheads of running millions of deliveries to customer’s houses, often several separate deliveries per order!
Of course online retailers are often cheaper than high street stores, but the price difference has little to do with inherent efficiency, and a lot more to do with the fact that they’ve been getting away with paying almost zero tax on their British profits for the last decade.
This taxation disparity is a problem that is attributable to the Tory government that has not only failed to rectify the problem in their 8 years in power, but has also repeatedly intervened to obstruct international efforts to clamp down on the worst tax-dodgers of all.
Another factor that critically undermines this “natural consequence of online retailing” argument is the subsequent total collapse of Poundworld just a few days later.
It’s easily possible to argue that people are more likely to buy their kitchenware, clothing, and furniture online these days, but surely nobody is going to attempt to argue that the online marketplace has undermined Poundworld’s ability to hawk cleaning products, stationary, cheap Chinese tat, and Jammie Dodgers.
The real reasons for the Tory High Street apocalypse are glaringly obvious.
Firstly the sustained period of Tory wage repression since 2010 has absolutely battered people’s disposable income. The less money they have in their pockets, the lower economic demand becomes. And the lower economic demand falls, the harder time retailers have selling their wares, whether at the top end of the High Street, or the bottom.
Then there’s the Brexit chaos the Tories have delivered. The post-referendum 15% drop in the value of the Pound was felt almost immediately by anyone with overseas interests, especially in the importation market. It’s taken longer for this collapse to filter through to the High Street in the form of price inflation, however the effects are becoming real and obvious, even to the most committed of Brexit enthusiasts.
And let’s not forget the tax-dodging activities of the online retailers that the Tories have turned such a consistent blind eye to over the last eight years.
All in all the Tory High Street apocalypse has been clearly and undeniably caused by the Tory fixation with hard-right economic dogma, and the absolute shambles they’ve made of Brexit. But as usual, their sycophantic supporters are desperate to cast around for someone else to blame other than their beloved Tory lords and masters.
This time blaming Labour is pretty much out of the question since it’s been almost a decade since they held power, and there’s no clear way of blaming the EU either, so they’ve fallen back on that age old excuse of “market forces”, as if the “market” is some kind of monolithic unchangeable force, rather than something that needs to be constantly directed and constrained by effective government policy.
If one part of the market is spectacularly undermining another because of the vast and unfair tax advantages you’ve allowed them to benefit from, there’s nothing inevitable about it at all.
Any sane government would intervene to level the playing field, but the Tory refusal to intervene is indicative of the myopic hard-right economic fanaticism that infests their party.
The Tories exist in a world of simplistic hard-right mantras: “public ownership – bad”, “private sector – good”, “workers’ rights – bad”, “corporate deregulation -good”, “government intervention – bad”, “immensely powerful monopolies – good”.
The Tories have created the High Street apocalypse, and their unyielding fixation with hard-right anti-interventionist dogma means they’re utterly unwilling to do anything at all to stop it.
All they’ll ever do is make pathetic excuses and seek to cast the blame elsewhere.