Conclusive election poor result for trade

Neill Denny
Opinion - Publishing Friday, 13 December 2019

The morning after the 2017 election I wrote an opinion piece headlined 'Inconclusive election poor result for trade' - so logically I should be heralding this morning's news as good for the book trade...

... but can I? My 2017 logic was that a minority Conservative government would become tied up in knots by Brexit and would be unable to focus on curing the slowing economy and on dealing with shrinking real wages. Net effect: the squeeze on household disposable income would go on - while the media noise around politics would further distract readers. The only upside was that a falling pound would boost overseas book sales by UK publishers, and people would seek solace in beach reads and serious non-fiction.

Certainly over the last three years the economy and consumer spending power have been in the doldrums, but it is by no means clear that a year (at least) spent negotiating a trade deal with Europe is likely to be much different. A weak economy is here to stay as the Conservatives appear to have no clear economic agenda beyond disrupting our relationship with our largest trading partner. Furthermore, publishers may not even have the solace of a weaker pound boosting overseas sales, as the Tory landslide has pushed sterling sharply up this morning. Serious n/f and beach reads will be needed more than ever though.

And at LBF in four months time British publishing will be in the unfortunate position yet again of having to apologise for Brexit, but at least we can now say we are buggering off for certain and attempt to build new relationships on that basis.

In terms of publishing for the 52, who have powered this Tory victory, it is hard to know where to start when the trade is so firmly of the 48. There are no prominent right-wing publishers and editors that I can think of and that lack of political diversity - which does worry some senior publishers privately - presumably has commercial consequences. But is publishing fundamentally about sales and money, or art and ideals?

Not a question best answered after a heavy night, but I for one would much rather cover a business composed of people who have chosen not to be bankers.

Also on BookBrunch

Featured Video


more charts »