Boris Johnson resigns as prime minister: the food industry reacts

08 July 2022, 09:25 AM
  • As Boris steps down from the top job, Speciality Food reports on what this means for independent retailers
Boris Johnson resigns as prime minister: the food industry reacts

This week saw a series of high-profile cabinet resignations including Rish Sunak, previously the chancellor of the exchequer and Sajid Javid, secretary of state for health and social care. 

The resignations indicated a lack of faith in Boris Johnson to continue leading the country and as a result, the prime minister announced his resignation yesterday morning, due to be in effect from October.

But what are the independent retail sector and the farming industry hoping to see from Boris’ replacement in the autumn?

Indies want stability
After a tumultuous few years, all indies really want, is stability and support through the current cost-of-living crisis and high inflation rates. 

Speaking to Speciality Food, Martin McTague, national chair of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), explained, “Businesses want a settled political situation and a truly pro-business government. The leadership race to come should include a focus on each candidate setting out their pitch to the UK’s millions of entrepreneurs.

“With immediate challenges to doing business driven by runaway inflation, firms are now looking for the government to prioritise immediate help for the small business community - not least on VAT - and roll out targeted cuts to taxes on fuel and equivalent assistance on energy bills for local small businesses as households have received.

“Longer-term, those competing to run this country must set out practical ideas to support growth including a long-promised overhaul of business rates, as well as action to cut tax, tackle late payments, and improve investment.”

Andrew Goodacre, CEO of the British Independent Retail Association (Bira) added, “The last few days in politics have been tumultuous. We now need a measure of certainty and clear direction if we are to successfully navigate the most challenging economic circumstances we have seen for years.

“The government has to get back to the ‘day job’ as quickly as possible so that damage to the economy and business confidence can be mitigated. Furthermore, we must retain a focus on delivering business support where it is needed with policies that will make a difference to shoppers and high streets. My fear is that ongoing political infighting within the government will be an unwelcome distraction.”

Looking to the rural sector
While the government has begun to implement plans to improve Britain’s high streets and boost local businesses in town centres with its Levelling Up white paper, little has been done to integrate the rural community.

As many farm retailers such as farm shops and food halls are nestled in rural communities, there is a strong need for the next prime minister to provide support to these businesses.

Mark Tufnell, president of the Country Land and Buisness Association (CLA) president Mark Tufnell explained, “The next leader of the Conservatives has an uphill battle to win back the trust of rural voters. Rural communities feel ignored, angry, and forgotten about. And for good reason.

“The rural economy is 18 per cent less productive than the national average, leading to a stagnant economy and limited aspiration. Boris Johnson had no plans to fix this chronic problem – the next prime minister must.

“Less than half of rural areas have adequate 4G coverage, let alone 5G. Rural homes remain even less affordable than those in urban areas, while rural jobs pay less. Despite all this, the rural economy was nowhere to be seen in the Levelling Up white paper.

“The next prime minister should have a robust and ambitious plan for the countryside, one that will create jobs and opportunities for everyone. This doesn’t require lots of public money, it simply requires a government that understands the potential rural businesses have to level up the country.”

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