It was Napoleon who first branded the British 'a nation of shopkeepers', a theme Adolf Hitler returned to 150 years later. But whilst these Anglophobic generals may have meant it as an insult, we British take great pride in our small retailers and jealously guard the variety and diversity they bring to our high street.
And whilst some of our (once) small shopkeepers, Marks & Spencer and J Sainsbury to name a couple, have gone on to become a staple of every high street, and the challenge for our butcher and baker has grown ever more daunting, we still love shopping at our small firms.
So it is perhaps surprising that the latest development to boost our small shops should have been imported from America via Streatham in London. The first Saturday in December (the 7th) has been designated Small Business Saturday, and across Britain, politicians, film stars, footballers and local celebrities will be urging us to join them in shopping at innovative small business on or just behind our high street.
Launched by American Express over there, and brought to the UK by Labour Shadow Secretary of State and Streatham man, Chuka Umunna, a bus will tour many of Britain's biggest cities promoting the initative, which has received the Prime Minister's backing. I am delighted that my constituency of Chesterfield has been chosen as one of the 11 stopping points for the bus, where on Tuesday 26 November, in our Market Square, the bus will encourage people to support small businesses on the 7th December and promote the huge number of small firms that reside across Chesterfield.
Chesterfield is the smallest town to be on the bus tour, a recognition of the town's commitment to supporting small firms, which saw the investment in the indoor market at exactly the time that many town's are abandoning theirs.
But it is important that Small Business Saturday shouldn't just be focused on the town centre, with many small shops offering great value right across the towns like Chesterfield up and down the country.
It is also a time for all of us to think about whether we do enough to support small businesses in every aspect of our lives. We need thriving firms of all sizes, big and small, but a strong and balanced economy relies upon supporting healthy competition and new entrants. And when 99% of small firms, 65% of employment and 48 of tax revenues are derived from small and medium sized businesses, they are an incredibly important part of our island story.
Now more than ever small firms need our support. The British high street is suffering due to the pressure from high energy bills, rising business rates, and a lack of bank lending. That is why a One Nation Labour Government would freeze energy bills for two-years - the time it takes us to reform the energy market so that it works for businesses and consumers - and cut business rates in 2015 and freeze them the following year. And we will set up a British Investment Bank and a network of regional banks, to ensure that the banking system serves the real economy.
So take a moment to think about where you might shop on Saturday 7 December, and support the heroes of our nation of shopkeepers!