Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Let's Go Down the Pub

So, the minimum pricing/what-to-do-about-the bevvy 'debate' continues, with the SNP, the police, the medical profession (and the English labour party) on one side and the Labour party, their Lib-Dem mini-me partners, the Tories, the drinks industry and the entire Scottish media on the other.

Enough has been said elsewhere about the antics of the opposition parties and their media wing – suffice it to say that, had the SNP had the 'oppose anything at any cost' mindset which the current opposition parties do, then smoking would still be legal in public places. I believe that Labour, in particular, should hang their heads in shame at their attitude to this issue.

No, I'm much more interested in the attitude of the drinks lobby, because I think they're missing a trick here. Minimum pricing or some other sort of crackdown on drinking is going to happen at some point soon, and I think they'd be well-advised to adopt a more nuanced approach. If I were advising them, I'd be trying to win concessions for pubs to counterbalance the inevitable regulatory hit which the off-trade will receive. They should be saying something like this:-

1. OK, we admit that alcohol abuse causes social problems;
2. We think that excessive consumption at home/in streets is caused not by price per se, but by the price differential between off-sales and on-sales ie pubs and clubs.
3. Pubs/clubs are, generally, a safe and well-regulated drinking environment where the behaviour and consumption of patrons is influenced by the pub staff and fellow customers.
4. Accordingly, there should be an equalisation of price between on sales and off-sales (perhaps even a reversal, so that drinks in pubs are cheaper) in order to get more people into pubs and fewer drinking at home/on the street.
5. This creates jobs, community spirit etc.

Just my view of course, but I think this would be a positive development. It may seem counter-intuitive, but I reckon that cheaper drinks inside pubs than outside them is the way to go.

It also has tactical merits which might prove useful to the Government. For starters, it would divide the drinks lobby, in that some of them would be supportive of this kind of reform. Pub landlords, CAMRA etc. would come onside instantly. To divide is to conquer…..It would also play well with the small business vote and with your average respectable pub-going voter.


R of S

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