Could it be? Labour planning to arrest the digital revolution

The idea that an industrial strategy is going to stop the retail revolution taking place around us is fanciful

by Douglas Carswell MP on 18 January 2013 12:40

Affable Labour spokesman Chuka Umunna tweeted recetly: "We need a proper industrial strategy to promote multichannel retailing, combining online trade with vibrant high streets".


I think Chuka was responding to the sad news that HMV is to shut. With more and more folk buying music online, apparently there simply aren't enough of us buying music the old fashioned way. When was the last time you bought a CD in a shop? When, indeed, was the last time you bought a CD?

But unless Chuka is proposing to restrict online shopping, how might he stop this change in retail patterns? Will there be a tax on itunes? A spotify tax? Will he require people to buy CDs? Of course not.

"It is not" Chuka tweets again "for us to think what we can't do but to ask what can we do to help resolve the situation".

Very Churchillian, but perhaps he might start by reading Chris Anderson's The Long Tail. Ostensibly about how online will transform retail, it might also give him an idea of the forces he is up against if he is going to try to arrest the digital revolution.

Perhaps Chuka and co have thought this all through carefully? Maybe they have carefully costed plans to tax digital distribution to cross subsidise traditional retail? Maybe they have plans to make sure that once 3D manufacturing gets going it does not distupt more generic production? Could be.

Or alternatively they've not thought seriously about the future of retail and are simply making noises to appear like they are on the right side?  

There are plenty of things that we can do to help the high street – cut taxes, ease planning rules and restrictions, make things easier for motorists needing somewhere to park. But they are all about politicians and officialdom doing less, and getting out the way. The idea that an industrial strategy is going to stop the retail revolution taking place around us is fanciful.

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