Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Trollied Tuesday: more puritans

One hears some extremely distressing news:

Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, is under strong pressure from 10 Downing Street to "make an example" of whisky, gin and vodka drinkers when he makes his Commons statement next month.
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Under the "nuclear option" plan for increasing duty – designed to appease the health lobby and show that ministers are serious about tackling the problems caused by binge drinking – the cost of a bottle of spirits would rocket, along with the cost of spirit-based alcopops favoured by young drinkers.

A bottle of Bells whisky could rise from £14.79 to £23.73 while Gordon's gin, another favourite of middle-class drinkers, would increase from £12.79 to £21.17.

In other words, a pointless gesture designed to be seen to do something, at the risk of annoying large numbers of people. Let's ignore the obsession with what "middle class" drinkers like; we might even overlook the detrimental effect upon those with slighter more discerning tastes - though one shudders to think how much Laphroaig would cost if little Darling caves in.

Making booze more expensive is the least annoying aspect to this proposal; the utter pointless is what really grates. It's not just that gin and whisky are not generally assumed to be the main cause of drinks related problems; nor is it the fact that the recourse to this type of puritanical gesture is generally the last recourse of the political scoundrel.

Gin makers and - even more so - whisky distillers are small but significant business in which Britain is a world leader. (And one notes that this sector does employ quite a lot of people in the one part of Britain where the Prime Minister is not utterly despised).To jeopardise hundreds of jobs in this area for the sake of a gesture does not add to the aura of statesmanlike competence that generally surrounds the doings of Numbers 10 and 11 Downing Street. One trusts this story was leaked by the chancellor precisely to give him an excuse to ostentatiously not go along with Mr Brown's lunatic plan; were he to do otherwise he would deserve to suffer the full wrath of the forces from hell.

One does realise that the government has to raise some more money somehow, but the fact that there is no effort to spin this story as a money-raiser does lead one to suspect that the sums involved are paltry in comparison to the totals needed to get the deficit down to... you're not going to carry on reading now are you? Have a drink instead.

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Never mind contributing to the Exchequer. There is something drinkers can do to help lift the country. According to Time Magazine the recent Winter Olympics in Vancouver have been the booziest ever.

(Well the writer couldn't find anyone with first-hand knowledge of the Moscow games - being Yanks they couldn't attend, after all; but it's hardly likely that the Russians would have been habitual drunkards, is it?)

Still there we have it. London's challenge for 2012 is to make sure the Brits outdrink the British Columbians. And if our female Olympians can outdo Canada's women ice hockey players, so much the better.

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