James says a hung parliament could slow down progress which may not be as bad as you think

I have found the general election campaign so far fascinating and at this late stage the outcome is still unpredictable. The pollsters say we may end up with a minority or coalition government. So will it affect our sector and the way we do our job?

Essentially the answer is no. We still continue to gain support for local shops from MPs, maintain working relationships with government departments and speak up forcefully for members' interests in the media.

Our concerns cut across parties and are rooted in local areas, whether it be promoting or protecting the high street, dealing with crime and anti-social behaviour or making sure shops are able to invest, grow and employ local people. That message is the same, whatever the colour of the government in charge.

Probably the main feature of coalition or minority government is the edging out of controversial decisions in favour of consensus and a slower pace of decision-making. There is no doubt that if the Scottish National Party had an outright majority in Scotland retailers would already be facing promotional restriction, a ban on under-21 alcohol sales and an alcohol levy, but these have been making slow progress because of the controversies involved. This is different to the rushed and flawed initiatives that have been pressed through the UK parliament, whether they be alcohol disorder zones or 48-hour bans.

On balance I think that the controversial things will tend to be the ones that we seek to resist major business tax increases, radical licensing law reform or overhaul of the national minimum wage.

What we can do is make sure that as many politicians as possible understand the importance of local shops and are sent to Westminster committed to supporting us.

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