by Ian Stewart
So, a government that is headed by a man who made some of his fortune through selling “Pink Pussies” in Tiger Tiger bars (via his vital work as a director of Urbium plc bar company in the early 2000s) has woken up to the problem of excessive alcohol consumption.
Obviously not 25 Year Old Islay Malt, nor Chateau Petrus, no – nothing wrong could ever happen if you drink expensively, could it? It is those other drinks, the common drinks, which cause all the problems. After all, who ever heard of, say, well-heeled Oxford students running about causing perturbation & fear?
The drinks business that is the making, exporting and selling of alcohol in the UK is, profits-wise, doing pretty well during our austerity times. Yet, beneath the balance sheets of the likes of Diageo and SAB Miller and the ever-enthusiastic reviews of new bars and products in the press, there is a continuing crisis.
Ever since supermarkets were allowed to join the off-licence trade, bringing in a race to the bottom in price terms, there have been ever-increasing number of pub closures and ever harsher terms for leaseholders. The big pub companies have lead the way in vertical drinking establishments, telling us to “drink responsibly” whilst discounting shots and jugs of nasty cocktails to compete, driving out independents where they can.
Pub companies now mainly see their leased stock as a potential source of revenue – not from what they sell, but in what they could achieve on the property market. This has hit rural areas particularly hard. All the while, alcohol consumption has risen to almost pre-1914 levels, after a sustained fall overall until the 1970s.
With deregulation profits soared and drinking habits changed. Yes, we eat out more, and drink more wine now than ever before. But unlike our continental cousins we seem to drink that Aussie Shiraz like beer. So the problems of drinking too much too fast – public disorder, private agony, illness, misery and working days lost have increased.
Step forward Theresa May and her universal solution – minimum pricing. There is some evidence that this will help in some areas, but this is a measure designed to hit one section of society, the working class and unemployed. Yup, it’s the plebs and chavs again – as if the only problem with alcohol could be encapsulated in a single episode of Shameless. Of course, “reasonable”, “average” (that would be middle and upper class) drinkers will not be affected by this measure.