Venture capitalists are to blame for the death of the high street – Rick Jackson

Picture: PA Wire
Picture: PA Wire

Is the demise of another great high street name down to our changing shopping habits or down to the asset-stripping of venture capitalists? I’m sure many of us are sad at the news Debenhams has gone into administration.

A walk around a department store is something we Brits have always enjoyed. Visiting all the different departments, looking for bargains or the finest items in that range.

My family and I love spending time in John Lewis at West Quay, but over the years the market has been squeezed by out of town companies specialising in the many different, smaller sections these department stores have.

Online shopping is also a major threat, but if you have a great website and can deliver your goods, like John Lewis and Debenhams, you are keeping up with the times.

But is there another reason? Venture capitalists?

In the UK, our proud British brands are unprotected by ownership law.

Many companies have been purchased by venture capitalists whose only aim is to asset strip, make the company as lean as possible, then sell off what’s left.

Can you imagine the German government allowing Mercedes to be bought by venture capitalists, or the Americans allowing General Electric to be sold in the same way?

It’s survival of the fittest in the UK.

You could argue this doesn’t allow for lazy management practices that plagued us in the 1970s, but it does mean many jobs and skills are at risk.

Could we not offer more protection to our established British companies by law in the same way as not only our partners do in the EU, but many governments around the world?

Then maybe we wouldn’t be in the situation we are in today as the likes of Debenhams, BHS and even Boots, who are to close many stores to maximise returns to investors elsewhere, could disappear.

Maybe then we won’t be in a situation once again where thousands of people working in retail are worried about their futures, and the high street wouldn’t be threatened with losing one of its most famous names.

It’s a no-deal or a people’s vote – MPs, take your pick

I bet if you voted leave, you’d be angry at the prospect of us staying in a customs union. Thus having to retain all the EU rules we currently live by – probably one reason for you voting leave in the first place. 

Or if you voted to remain, I bet you are angry at the prospect of us becoming rule takers instead of rule makers. For me, this is the worst possible outcome of Brexit. Even no-deal would be better for us in the long run.

Before we leave the EU, I strongly feel we should be asked the question again. Seeing as MPs have taken away our only bargaining chip in no-deal, we should have a people’s vote: full EU membership or EU rules without membership.

Should you sacrifice family life for your own selfishness?

I t was great to see 46-year old James Cracknell become the oldest winner of the Thames Boat-Race over the weekend. But at what cost?

We marvel at such dedicated people: Ben Fogle and his adventures, Richard Hammond and his infamous car crashes. We marvel at their daredevil stunts and achievements but, behind it all, they have wives and children.

Isn’t this all a bit selfish?

Spending months away training or filming, putting your lives at risk. Cracknell’s marriage has suffered at his single-mindedness, according to his wife.

For me, if you settle down and have children, your responsibility is to them – not your careers.