The New Prohibition
David Cameron is so very wrong on the minimum pricing for alcohol units. It’s illiberal; it’s un-conservative and will cause a ‘moonshine culture’ in Britain
Drinking, it has been said, causes Parliament to do things until eleven at night that no sane person would do at eleven in the morning.
The almost cavernous bars of the British Parliament and their cut-price alcohol were once interpreted as an earned perquisite of our public servants. Men and women who toiled until late in Westminster, formulating the laws of the land, representing their constituents and acting as ambassadors for parliamentary democracy deserved a cheeky drink or two, did they not?
With the advent of the modern careerist politico (read: the Nickus Cleggus) and the imbroglio that rides in the slipstream of a smash-and-grab culture (quite literally, lately) comes a very British realisation. “Oi!” We snarl,“Why the bloody hell do these clowns get subsidised booze at our expense? Someone’s playing silly buggers.”
To romanticise the Churchillian epoch (or prior) as inherently virtuous, the age of the philosopher king, would be irresponsibly revisionist. The point is rather that:
1) There are now far too many Nickus Clegguses (Cleggi?)
2) With mainstream media investigations and the freedoms of an enhanced information age… we now know.
Can you hear us in there? Of course you can We know.
Thus, leave it to the Christmas period for the government to announce a minimum unit pricing on alcohol. Heaven knows what the strategy was there. Presumably, we’re all too blotto on mulled wine and brandy to even contemplate buying more booze, and a restriction on our freedom in this regard even starts to seem like a good idea?
Acting on the advice of the British Medical Association, in line with an ‘official study’, the government will raise £700m a year from the measure and save approximately one thousands lives per year.
The former is true: a desperate and cynical attempt by a ‘Conservative In Name Only’ Prime Minister to plug a deficit gap. I won’t get into the Laffer Curve right now.
The latter assertion of saving lives however is dubious and relies upon the government scientists being able to predict our behavioural patterns. This isn’t the Tory party anymore; it’s the LaboraTory party (that works on so many levels, doesn’t it?).
Mr. Cameron, quoth the Telegraph, is said to have been bolstered in his vision for this new prohibition by the ‘success’ of the smoking ban. Assuming ‘success’ is synonymous with the transition of sovereignty of one’s faculties from individual to government, then I concur, the ban was a rip-roaring success.
A minimum pricing diktat would see a bottle of own-brand gin go up from £6.95 to £11.85 and a two-litre bottle of own-brand cider would more than triple in price from £1.20 to £3.75. This isn’t simply a tax on ‘pocket-money alcohol’. This is a new tax on the poorest who haven’t the ability to buy Tanqueray or Weston’s.
Instigating a new moonshine culture of imports, booze-cruises and counterfeit stocks to combat high prices (for this will be a desperate market response) will cause far more than £700m worth of problems for HM Treasury and the arms of government it supplies with our cash.
Instead of tackling the real problem of alcohol’s burden on the taxpayer, the ever-increasing purview of the buckling National Health Service, the Cameroon’s are seeking to shore up the behemoth.
The banking bailout was bad enough, but it was nothing compared to the black hole of public spending targeted at the health service and other government departments. It’s just as immoral as its private sector counterpart and yet we refuse to overhaul the old bitch.
David Cameron has been known to talk about ‘broken Britain’ or the ‘rotten core’ of our society. This new move, instead of addressing the very nature of our unmeritocratic consumption culture that leads to excesses through expectancy, serves only to ruddy the internally decaying apple – applying the same transient gloss of the Blair years, passing down the real problems to the next generation.
This seems to be the modus operandi of our current tranche of politiicans. Drinking, it could be said, has caused politicians to do things in their conclaves that no sane person would think plausible even in the most desperate of times.
Raheem Kassam is the Executive Editor of The Commentator and Communications Director for the Bow Group, the oldest centre-right think tank in the United Kingdom. He tweets at @RaheemJKassam
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