Coffee House

What shall we do with the drunken British?

2 December 2012

12:10 PM

2 December 2012

12:10 PM

Being in government has forced the Liberal Democrats to decide whether they are liberal in the British sense of the word, or in the American, statist sense. Nick Clegg leans towards the latter, which is why he wants the state to regulate of the press. But Jeremy Browne, the Home Office minister, is emerging as a genuine Manchester-style liberal. In the Mail on Sunday today, he has come out against the illiberal strategy for the minimum pricing of alcohol. He can’t speak himself, but ‘friends of Mr Browne’ have this to say:

‘Jeremy’s view is that the thug who has downed nine cans of lager is hardly going to think, “Oh dear, I can’t afford a tenth because of minimum pricing. I think I’ll go home to bed instead of starting a brawl.”’

We can add to this that it will only be the poor who are affected by the policy. Very few in parliament will be buying £11 vodka bottles; households whose budgets cannot stretch to Smirnoff will be the ones hit. If Labour was in any way on the wavelength of the people it purports to represent, it would have lambasted the government for a ‘let them drink Bolly’ approach: and one that doesn’t even work. As research from the Adam Smith Institute showed last week, the policy itself is based on flawed research, and there is no solid evidence that it will help at all.


In recent years, we have witnessed the lobotomy of politics summed up by the following argument: ‘X is the problem, Y is a solution, let’s do Y and those who oppose Y are wicked.’ This conclusion is reached without anyone asking about the extent to which Y would remedy X.

So it is with booze. Dominic Lawson has a brilliant column in the Sunday Times today where he cites Damian Green, policing minister, saying

‘the streets of our major cities on Friday and Saturday nights are a living hell… and the police are left to clear up the mess.’

Welcome to Britain, Mr Green, where we’ve been boozing for centuries – and generations of policymakers have not managed to change it since the first anti-boozing Act was passed in 1607. The scenes that Hogarth depicted in Gin Lane in 1751 may have evolved over time: today it’s more about Nottingham pavements being Jackson Pollocked at 2am. (Which they wouldn’t be, if all the clubs didnt close way before folk wanted to go home).

It is a problem. But there is no empirical evidence suggesting minimum alcohol pricing would have any impact on it. What higher booze prices ill do is make life more expensive and miserable for those who are suffering enough already.

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Show comments
  • barbie

    Well taxes on drink is the main thinking process with this problem. They are approaching it all wrong. The culprits are binge drinkers who fall about in the High Street on weekends, get into A&E and take up beds and time, and the brawls that follow keep our police busy. So, how can we cope with all this? Well firstly setting a minimum price for alcohol won’t work, if they want to drink they will. However, we should start charging them for A&E time, as it’s self inflicted, which cost the NHS millions per year. Secondly, Then charge them for police time, thirdly, charge them for cleaning up the HIgh Street if they vomit on footpaths and roads. Hit them in their pockets, not ours. Its they who are breaking the law, causing upset in communities, so they should pay not the law abiding public. Why MPs cannnot see this I’ve no idea. They set up special courts for the riots, so why not drunks on weekends. Shame them and hitting their pockets will leave less available to spend on drink. The idea of minimum pricing victimises the innocent and why should we pay more for a bottle each weekend with Sunday lunch just because of them. It is unfair.

  • templetont

    Come again? If the clubs stayed open later there’d be less vomit on the streets of Nottingham?

    What ignorant critics of policy ideas often say is because X (an attempt to make a small reduction in Y) will not completely and utterly eradicate Y (and global warming and paedophilia) it is idiotic.

    In all but the most bizarre cases increasing the cost of goods leads to a reduction in consumption. There is plenty of evidence that the ‘Law of Demand’ is followed on alcohol pricing (This study looked at 78 papers all of which had been vetted for quality – Elder et al, Am J Prev Med 2010;38(2):217–229)

    If you want to criticize this policy you have to do so whilst accepting that it will reduce some problem drinking.

  • Robbie Dog

    I have a simple solution which does not involve minimum pricing. Close the pubs at a decent hour, instead of allowing them to stay open all night as legislated by the demented Labour government. If they are open less, the public will drink less.

  • C Cole
  • Eddie

    Britain is a ‘dry’ country – i.e. we drink alcohol without food a lot in order to get hammered. Ditto in northern countries – and the world’s biggest drinkers, the Czechs, the Hungarians and the Moldovans (find one if you can…).

    France, Italy etc are ‘wet’ countries – they drink with food mostly – but, and here’s the rub. the liver disease in France is double that in Britain! Perhaps the alcohol breaks down fat and protects against heart disease – but the liver pays for that daily wine drinking!

    My own experience of other European countries is this (and I have lived in several, including the Czech Republic): while it is acceptable in northern ‘dry’ countries for men to get drunk, it is not accepted for girls to – the female students I taught in Prague would never ever have got drunk (at leats not publiclY and always chose to drink cola instead of the cheaper beer in the pub.

    How verey different from the UK, with its ‘liberated’ girlpower feminists, demanding the right to be drunken sluts and to drink as much as the boys (even though female bodies can’t cope as well).

    I think the lack of shame of young women is almost entirely to blame for the increased problems with alcohol. Other countries may well have issues with it – but it’s only males who are affected. In the UK, hoardes of leery drunken women are for some reason proud to be drunk as they vomit and slut it through our town centres every weekend.
    Feminism has a lot to answer for – a good bit of embarrassment and shame at that behaviour would do a great deal of good. No French or Czech woman would EVER behave like that! And it is other women – not men – who find that behaviour particularly disgusting.
    Nothing so disgusting as a drunken woman, quoth Lawrence – and y’know, he was right.

  • MeeAgain

    Increasing the price is a blunt and simplistic tool for law makers who can’t think of anything else. It’s also very convenient for politicians who want to look tough on binge drinking because they don’t have to actually do anything. The irony is it affects everyone whether they have an issue or not, everyone except someone who’s actually drunk because they’re too smashed to care.

    I’ve never been denied access to a bar or pub, or been refused a drink by bar staff because i was deemed to drunk. that’s not because i’ve never been too drunk but because it’s just not done. you can crawl into a bar, throw up in your hands and still get a drink. That’s the issue.

    – mandatory health and safety one day training course before you can serve on-license alcohol
    – 500 quid fine for anyone who serves someone under the influence
    – 5000 quid fine for any establishment who serves someone under the influence
    – enforce the above

  • Daniel Maris

    The problem is where is this all leading…plain packaging for cigarettes…can booze be far behind? And then what? Cream cakes banned? Only low fat yoghurt on sale. Bacon sold without the rind? All meat to be sold in supermarkets to be Halal?

    We don’t dare laugh these days do we? – seeing how so many outlandish ideas have come to pass…

    • Kate

      Re plain packaging for cigarettes – it has just been introduced in Australia and apparently has adversely affected the taste of the product . On the other hand, research has shown that the more people pay for wine the better they think it tastes. Which suggests that price hikes and plain labels should not be introduced together. Now, if alcohol was free, in plain packaging you wouldn’t be able to give it away….problem solved

      • jazz6o6

        Plain packaging doesn’t prevent you drinking or smoking whatever and whenever you like, but probably makes it less likely.

  • emiller7

    Stop 24 hour opening. Easy!

  • ns

    It seems to me that aside from any social concerns, the costs to society of selling alcohol, tobacco, or indeed spotted dick should be born by the venders. If the costs for alcohol are 21bn and the tax revenue is 15bn it looks like a considerable hike in the duty is in order.

  • sir_graphus

    But actually, we consume less alcohol than we ever did, as a nation. It’s no business of govt to control prices.

    We also loose fewer children to murderers, too, than ever, but that doesn’t sell papers either.

    • jazz6o6

      I find that statistic unconvincing . Look at the shelves in supermarkets, rows and rows of wines and spirits. The NHS complaining about the increasing level of alcohol related injuries and disease.

  • Captain Cocaine Cameron

    The only people that see themselves as British are foreigners with British passports.Get with program Fraser ‘lord haw haw’ Nelson.

  • John Thomas’s

    There is no solution to people drinking too much in Britain, we love it. All you can do is a bit of nudge theory and help people on their mortal journey of life. The problems caused to the Police and NHS can be helped by a ring fenced local minimum tax on alcohol, sent directly to the NHS trust or constabulary affected.

  • Fergus Pickering

    We have been famous for drunkenness at least since Shakespeare’s day, drunkenness and violence. It is really nothing new. Edinburgh in the 1960s where I grew up was full of drunks, even though booze was much more expensive then and the pubs shut at ten o’clock. What’s all this about the poor and cheap liquor? I buy cheap gin. I can’t tell the difference and frankly I doubt if you can either, after you have put tonic in it. This is a tax on ME and a bloody sight more than £7 a year. I buy a bottle of gin a fortnight or so and I drink a glass of wine every night. That’s before I drop in to a pub or go out for a meal. Perhaps I am one of those problem drinkers they are talking about.I bet I drink less than at least 500 MPs though.

    • Thick as two Plancks

      I expect we are all “binge drinkers” by the modern definitions used by the busybodies: more than 4 units per session. In my young day that was only just getting started.

      • kevinlynch

        Good for you. Why should my taxes pay for your inevitable cirrhosis though?

        • Thick as two Plancks

          We all have our weaknesses, even if your ones are different from mine. So a certain generosity to the weaknesses of others makes us “all in this together”.

  • Captain Cocaine Cameron

    Legalise Cannabis.

    • Fergus Pickering

      Legalise Heroin..Legalise sex with children and the dead. Let it all hang out.

      • Captain Cocaine Cameron

        Just cannabis, muppet.

      • eeore

        If this is your bag, you might consider moving to Egypt.

  • Austin Barry

    Only Islam can solve this problem. Pass the kat, my infidel chums.

  • Remittance Man

    The elephant in the room is one nobody has even mentioned – it’s not the people who buy cut price booze from Asda who are “Jackson Pollocking” the pavements of Britain’s towns at 2am.

    FFS! Have you seen the prices of booze in most nightclubs? They make drinking one’s self stupid on Chateau Lafitte look positively Scrooge-like.

  • the viceroy’s gin

    The government wants cash, and the nanny state finds a welcome confluence with the cash grabbers. To hell with the government and the nanny staters, but unfortunately there are bigger fish to fry than this, so it’ll probably slide on through. Sin taxes always seem to do so, even if the nanny state government enacting them deserves damnation for their own sins.

    Perhaps rather than complaining about this fait accompli, the Speccie teenager could focus on the massive spending levels this government is maintaining, which bring pressure for such as these sin taxes. Oh that’s right, this government is enacting “cuts”… I know because I read about them in these pages.

  • Daniel Maris

    Booze goes through Britain like Brighton through Brighton Rock. It is not always defensible – it leads to a great deal of misery in various ways – but it equally it is part of our culture. Sobriety has its place (e.g. in the operating theatre) but it virtues can be overstated.

    Use of mood influencing drugs has been part of human culture since day one. The evidence from Muslim countries is that if you aren’t a little tiddly on booze you’ll be off your rocker on kat, super-strength caffeine and brain-mashing cannabis, or you’ll be indulging in religious frenzies of one kind or another.

    I certainly think if we are going to have differential pricing we should encourage the drinking of low alcohol to high volume ratios. What used to be called small beer in the Middle Ages (when monks would drink 8 pints of the stuff a day) should be back on the menu. A 6% lager should cost three times as much as a 3% lager.

    Also we should reduce the duties on beers and spirits sold in bona fide pubs (places without entertainment licences).

  • jazz6o6

    Stop all alcohol advertising and sponsorship (incl. product placement) , stop all fancy labeling, standard format monochrome labels only. Take alcohol licences away from supermarkets sell alcohol only in pubs,restaurants and off licences.
    All of the above would have a great effect and be easy to implement.
    Of course none of it will happen because the alcohol industry has a huge amount of influence, particularly amongst the ‘honourable’ members.

    • William Blakes Ghost

      I bet you are fun at a party!

      • jazz6o6

        And how does that relate to my post ?

        • FrankS

          See what WBG means!

        • Daniel Maris

          If you’re a jazz fan, we know all the jazz greats were heroin addicts…is that why you are so anti-alcohol…you want to turn us on to jazz. 🙂

          • jazz6o6

            My father was an alcoholic. He had a severe drink problem before retiring (late 40s) from the RAF. He then got a job as a rep for Johnny Walker and went downhill at a fast rate eventually dying by choking on his own vomit (aspiration of gastric fluid), mind you if that hadn’t got him his liver and kidneys were about to pack up. Fortunately I wasn’t around to see this, I was at sea in the. MN where I was able watch a few other people destroy themselves through drink. I didn’t care except when they were a nuisance. You know ? Being sick all over the place, starting fights, not turning to, falling asleep on watch etc etc. Many British seamen were particularly bad at this and it was a great relief when we swapped over to Chinese crews. Drunks are also amazingly boring at parties although of course they don’t notice this themselves.
            Some years ago my sister in law took a video of a party, a few days afterwards it was played back for the benefit of some of the participants none of whom could be classed as problem drinkers, but who on this occasion had quite a lot to drink. I could see on their faces as they watched the playback the shock and embarrassment at their behaviour, this included the camerawoman. The video disappeared never to be seen again.
            The drinks industry is making a fortune out of foolish people who don’t know what’s good for them. Personally I couldn’t give a XXXX as long as they’re sick in someone else’s car.

    • eeore

      My homebrew has monochrome labels at the start of the night.

      • emiller7

        Mine too!

  • Stephen

    Stephen • a few seconds ago

    It just shows how ridiculous our electoral system is when someone like Nick Clegg, who wouldn’t have a cat in hell’s chance of becoming PM, manages to become Deputy PM without any mandate from the British public whatsoever.

  • Stephen

    It just shows how ridiculous our electoral system is when someone like Nick Clegg, who wouldn’t have a cat in hell’s chance of becoming PM, manages to become Deputy PM with any mandate from the British public whatsoever.

  • wrinkledweasel

    I love it when Fraser goes otherworldly and ultracrepidarian. (See Fraser, Smirnoff is for people who don’t drink vodka. It’s always been Stolly for me or Absolut or, occasionally Grey Goose.

    But I take your point. It is really only going to affect the poor, though all it really means for them is that the kids get a few less chicken nuggets.

  • William Blakes Ghost

    How is minimum alcohol pricing going to work if all we need to do is revert to brewing our own which government has liitle or no control over (unless they are going to ban yeast and sugar) and of course homebrew invariably turns out that much stronger.than the dishwater sold by Sainsbury’s and Tescos. Its a complete nonsense of a policy (its from the Home Office after all)

    Sack May and Green and break up the Home Office (by far the most dysfunctional and pointless department of them all). They produce nothing but rubbish (insane police budgets, snoopers charters, half hearted black hole immigration policies and this drivel).

  • MikeBrighton

    The Guardian will soon be advertising well paid jobs at OffBooze to set “Alcohol Strategy”. CEO at around 300K plus 100% bonus and a series of “Senior officers” at 150-200K each plus bonus and golden pension. Good work if you can get it, with the added bonus of actually doing sweet FA between 0800 Monday and 1800 Friday

    • Keith

      Plus a legion of alcohol consumption cessation counsellors on £45k plus benefits and pension.

    • Dimoto

      Blimey ! that will give pause to the legions of “chums”, QUANGOcrats, and general layabouts about to sign up as “consultants” to police commissioners. Apparently they only get about £70K (mean old taxpayers !)

    • FrankS

      Not to mention Islamic community alcohol outreach workers.
      – Mustafa Djin

  • Andy

    As per usual it is a profoundly illiberal thing to do and displays an authoritarian mindset which is to be deplored. If you want to drink yourself to death my attitude is that is your right: you get on with it, but leave me alone. I don’t have a right to tell you how to live and you don’t bloody well have a right to tell me how to live. To the politicians I have a simple message: Piss off.

    • Sarah

      And how about your right to make other people’s lives a misery because of public or private drunkenness? How about your right to cost tax payers billions to police you and clear up after you? How about your right to divert NHS services away from others who have illnesses not caused by lifestyle choices?

      • Andy

        There are already plenty of laws to counter your public and private drunkenness. We should use them. As to the NHS thank you for a good argument for its abolition and replacememnt by an insurance scheme.

        So where are you going to stop with the ‘Sarah knows best’ attitude ?

      • Fergus Pickering

        Once you start rationing healthcare because of lifestyle choices you really don’t know where it will end. Sex is definitely bad for your health. Childbirth also. Are you a nun, Sarah? All those Olympic medal winners are doing things extremely damaging to their health in later life. I hope you don’t go ski-ing or ride a horse. Or play darts, for that matter. Studies have shown that darts players suffer from everything from arthritis to alcohol poisoning.

        And people who go to the tropics to work for Oxfam and such pick up all sorts of diseases. It ought not to be allowed.

        • Sarah

          I didn’t suggest rationing healthcare. I suggested increasing the price of alcohol to reduce private consumption and to disrupt the business model of the public pushers.

    • Bluesman

      And lots of convivial lunches.

    • ButcombeMan

      JS MIll-“On Liberty”.

      “Over himself, over his own mind and body, the individual is sovereign”.

      However, this is but one sentence in many which unequivocally qualify
      the statement and which emphasise that the individual has an obligation
      to society and that the rights of society outweigh those of the

      … “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any
      member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to

      And therein lies the key phrase – harm to others.For the driving force
      in the thinking of the drunkard or drug aficionado, is that the individual is
      sovereign, and the only harm that is significant is harm to that
      individual – harm to others can be dismissed as of secondary importance
      to the user.

      Mill rejects this, taking direct issue with those who abuse
      substances and making it clear that, because of the harm caused to
      others by this individual action, such abuse should be repressed by law.

      In the context of morality, law and punishment, Mill says:

      “Whenever, in short there is definite damage, or definite risk of damage,
      either to an individual or to the public, the case is taken out of the
      province of Liberty and placed in that of morality or law”.

      Punishment is seen to be right:

      …”for such actions as are prejudicial to the interests of others …the
      individual is accountable [to society] and may be subjected either to
      social or legal punishment if society is of the opinion that the one or
      the other is requisite for its protection”.

      • telemachus

        So as I see it you support an increase in price to reduce haem to society caused by alcohol as supported by the scientific evidence
        It is win win if applied right
        More tax receipts(or lower food prices) and less harm

    • jazz6o6

      The trouble is that drinkers don’t leave everyone else alone.

  • TomTom

    City bars don’t produce drunks or alcoholics do they ? there are no alcoholics on Trading Floors or in the House of Commons. Eric Joyce is stone-cold sober – must be the hard to price alcohol out of reach for them. Surely better to bring in Mandatory Drunk Tanks instead with automatic 15 day in drunk tanks with compensation orders against the drunk

    • telemachus

      Whatever the politics of this the facts on harm are well recorded-see for example:-

      Purshouse, Lancet 2010:Minimum pricing policies and discounting restrictions …. because both strategies are estimated to reduce alcohol consumption, and related health harms and costs, with drinker spending increases targeting those who incur most harm.

      WHO Regional office for Europe report: Policies that regulate the economic and physical availability of alcohol are effective in reducing alcohol-related harm.

      Peter Anderson, Lancet 2009:… education does
      not reduce alcohol-related harm, ….. Making alcohol more expensive and less
      available, and banning alcohol advertising, are highly cost-eff ective
      strategies to reduce harm.

      Plus there are a number of north American studies specifically linking price to binge drinking.

      • TomTom

        Lancet is a joke – real red top with Richard Horton as editor peddling his political outlook.

        • telemachus

          But there is a serious point here
          The only thing shown consistently to work to improve health and social problems from alcohol is price

          • Fergus Pickering

            I don’t want to improve my health and my social problem is that I don’t have as much money as I would like. Mind your own bloody business, you socialist prick. JC, who liked a drink, is on my side. The Pharisees are on yours.

            • acorn

              That’s fine. What we really need to do is to leave drunks in the gutter and remove them from NHS treatment for cirrhosis. Treatment of alcoholics at home recommends leaving them at the bottom of the stairs in their own vomit. We just need a macro policy to do the same. PS Can’t see that reference to JC or the Pharisees has any relevance.

              • telemachus

                Every now and again Telemachus makes a very serious point and you should heed and vote up prices
                On Pharisees

                “The Pharisees perhaps meant to obey God, but eventually they became so devoted and extremist in very limited parts of The Law (plus all that they themselves added to it), that they became blind to The Messiah when He was in their very midst. They saw His miracles, they heard His Words, but instead of receiving it with joy, they did all that they could to stop Him – eventually to the point of getting Him killed because He truthfully claimed to be the Son of God.”

                This cannot be true
                I was one of the to recognise our messiah Ed Balls

                • Keith

                  You are a Socialist prick, though.

                • telemachus

                  Well argued on this serious subject

                • TomTom

                  You know NOTHING about the Pharisees which is the group that survived the destruction of the Second Temple and was nearer to Judaism today and the doctrines of Jesus Christ than the Sadduccees whom you seem to prefer.

                • telemachus

                  The Sadduces became extinct when Herod’s temple fell
                  I on the other hand represent the growing future

  • RKing

    Carrying on from my previous “rant” if you increase the price of alcholol then it will mean that the poor freezing pensioners will not be able to afford their “anti-freeze” so there will be even more of them piled up for burying.

    Now don’t give me that old crap about if they can afford to drink then they can afford to keep themselves warm.

    Everyone is entitled to their tipple in moderation!!

  • swatantra

    Labour had a go at changing the Licensing Laws and moving us all over to a more continental and responsible drinking culture; but it was sabotaged by the powerful Drinks Lobby and vested interests. Binge drinking is a drain on the public purse, and the only way to stop it is to make those responsible for it pay through the nose. Why should the rest of society suffer?
    One good thing about this Coalition is that its thrown up quite a few Lib Dem Ministers, proving once and for all that being a Lib Dem is no barrier to being a good Minister who can handle a brief just as well as any other Minister.

    • MikeBrighton

      Which LibDems are good ministers. I can’t say I’d noticed. Gove aside same for the Tories. They are both a shower of incompetents and over-promoted yes-men

      • swatantra

        Lynn Featherstone, Sarah Teather, alas both no longer there; and Jo Swinson. And, Clegg probably the best DPM since Attlee in the Wartime Coalition.

    • TomTom

      Drinks is excessively taxed in the UK as in Sweden and both countries have a drunks problem. It is excessive tax that makes alcohol a problem because people want to get “high” and escape their depressive state. Britons tend towards being depressive

      • Fergus Pickering

        Where is your proof of this ridiculous assertion.

  • ScaryBiscuits

    Price controls didn’t work when the government was trying to regulate the supply of bread or housing so why does Cameron think it will work to regulate the supply of alcohol?

    It’s become clear that Cameron doesn’t have a conservative or true liberal bone in his body. He has more in common with Clegg and Miliband than the average voter. His refrain during the election debates ‘I agree with Nick’ was truer than anybody at the time imagined. His only objective is power for himself and his small circle of friends. He has only backed away from statutory regulation of the press, something that the Leveson enquiry was bound to recommend because that was the remit that Cameron gave him, because he has realised he can’t afford to antagonise Fleet St more than he already has.

    Again and again, Cameron makes strategic errors, backing himself into a corner that only his silver tongue and establishment support extricates him from at the last moment. Is the Conservative Party really going to put up with this incompetence for another two years?

  • JohnT

    Ah… the perils of using slang. I can understand what Fraser is trying to convey with his ‘Jackson Pollock’ metaphor. However, if one goes to the Urban Dictionary website, the slang meaning of the term is somewhat racier.

    It suggests activities not likely to be happening on the pavements of Nottingham….. but possibly elsewhere.

  • Sarah

    The streets on Friday and Saturday nights didn’t used to be hell in the early 1990s. And they’re not he’ll in other heavy drinking northern European countries, I’ve been to Sweden and Norway and German and Russia and Poland, me.

    Before chain bars started buying up buildings, knocking down the partition walls to create warehouses, turning the volume up to 11, charging the male customers small entrance fees, pimping out the female ones by waiving it for them, with an economic model of pile it high, sell it low that absolutely relies on customers drinking to excess.

    This isn’t historic Anglo-Saxon boozing in action, this is 80s capitalism meets 90s consumerism and 00s mainstreaming of the sex industry.

    • Baron

      Sarah, we know what it’s like, what were talking about is whether to stop it, or let it be.

      For what it’s worth Baron in favour of the latter. The concern of those in charge is fake, what they see is another conduit for grabbing more tax, they do it wherever they have half a chance.

      • TomTom

        Actually it is about DUTY. Since most Alcohol taxes are Ad Valorem each price reduction is at the expense of HMRC. So by setting a price per unit it puts a floor on Alcohol Duty Revenue whereas the EU says raise the Duty to avoid breaching Single Market Rules – but this would still not prevent supermarkets discount liquor at the expense of HMRC. It is a bit like an estate agent cutting your house price to get his commission – you lose £100,000 he loses £500

    • TomTom

      Sarah, I think excessive drinking is a characteristic of dead societies like Britain and the USSR and a lack of any real options. Most British cities and towns outside London are deserts of shops and offices and the populace is devoid of cultural pretensions because of sterile education and crass commercialism which we see at its worst in the run up to Saturnalia masquerading as Christmas when 40% drinks industry profits are made. BOREDOM is the cause of excessive drinking

    • William Blakes Ghost

      Thats a pretty naive assessment. This problem has existed in one form or other forever. Certainly in its contemporary form its existed since the late 50’s at least. Whether its football violence or mods & rockers there has been drink and drug related problems throughout the last 60 years or so. Likely its existed for a lot longer but probably was less evident for a number of reasons.

      If there is a difference in the last couple of decades it is that its not just men anymore. Increasingly there are as many women abusing alcohol on Friday and Saturday nights as there are men (back in the 60’s & 70’s it was rare to see a woman drink a pint). Nothing wrong with that but of course female tolerance to alcohol is supposedly less than males medically speaking.

      You can’t blame chain bars. As you point out in other cultures the same problems don’t occur to the same extent and they have chain bars. Do you really believe that the dancehalls and nightclubs of yesteryear were any less cavernous or didn’t use exactly the same enticements to get custom? Do you really think that since the 60’s the music in pubs and clubs hasn’t been deafening? Do you really think that since the days of the mini-skirt and hotpants that females have not been used (and readily accepted to be used) as lures to entice men to bars and clubs (and long before that if truth be known)? The economic model is exactly what it always has been.

      Now to me in contemporary terms there are a numerous considerations that have led us to this point such as the end of conscription, the rise of a seperate and relatively isolated pop and youth culture, the sexual revolution, the decline of morality, the church and the community in society (not least by our ‘leaders’), the polarisation and centralisation of business and society, the increasing polarisation of entertainment into town and city centres (as part of the general polarisation and centralisation of UK business and society in general) and not to forget the disingenuous, hypocritical, irresponsible and divisive manipulation of gender ‘equality’ issues by politicians. Add to that the increasing stresses in modern society not least due to the current economic situation and you are starting to scope the real breadth of the problem.

      It won’t have happened elsewhere in Europe because a) we are an enclosed society being an island and b) Northern Europe’s post WWII mindset was very different to ours and understandably so.

      The thing is the real problems are deep rooted in the psyche of our societyand sadly our rotten political class neither has the desire nor the wit (nor the credibility) to address it. So instead we get these futile gestures that will achieve nothing other than punish the voter (who will no doubt respond in kind at the ballot box).

    • Fergus Pickering

      I went to Oslo thirty years ago and it was full of drunks. The Norwegians told me they were all Finns.

    • kevinlynch

      apart from getting your skull smashed in by drunken Russian neo-fascists, of course.

  • Francis

    Fraser, Please would you or one of your colleagues set up an online petition for those of all who would like to register our strong opposition to the Leveson proposals and the statutory regulation of the press.

    I am fed up with reading how many have signed the Hacked Off petition at the same time as having no opportunity to register my opposing opinion.

    • Sarah

      Anyone can set up a petition. Why do you need Fraser Nelson to do it for you?

    • Colonel Mustard

      Don’t need to. The opposition “petition” is all those who haven’t signed their silly petition. More than 95% of the population. If the government take any notice of the cranks, losers and serial leftists who have signed then that will be totally undemocratic and the likes of Grant and Rowling might as well move into No.10

  • ScaryBiscuits

    At least Fraser understands his terms and knows the difference between the US and UK meaning of liberal. Please tell Alex Massie, who thinks Hayek is the same as Obama and that ‘most libertarians are liberals’. I suppose that’s why Fraser is the editor and Massie is here for padding.

    • David Lindsay

      Nothing drives me up the wall more than British use of the American meaning of “liberal”, among other words. It is endemic on Fleet Street these days. Are they actually writing from New York, as is widely believed to be the case? Or is London now so much a Gotham suburb that they may as well be?

  • David Lindsay

    I remember 90p a pint (i.e., 45p per “unit”) in certain workingmen’s clubs nearly 20 years ago. But I should be fascinated to hear of anywhere where it was still the case. Is this going to be the law, or have I misunderstood?

    As someone who now drinks very moderately despite a capacity for alcohol long remarked upon by other people, I am not sure what to make of proposals for minimum pricing. They seem to be hitting the wrong target, which is alcoholic drinks stronger than beer, specifically designed for immature palettes, and, yes, priced for the pocket money market, or at least the Saturday job market.

    Why shouldn’t I be able to buy four bottles of real ale for six quid? It would take me over a week to get through them. But making anything last over a week because it is worth savouring is not how the adolescent mind works. And being able to appreciate anything worth savouring in that way is not how the adolescent palette works. So why discriminate in favour of the adolescent pocket?

    Minimum pricing is not the panacea for this country’s endemic drunkenness, but it certainly has its place. However, we now discover that, even if they wanted to, the alcohol manufacturers could not arrange such a scheme among themselves, since that would be a breach of competition law. Was there ever anything – anything at all – less conservative than capitalism? Oh, well, over to the force that makes family values possible in practice: the State.

    • Baron

      well said, David, and clearly, too.

    • Archimedes

      I’m surprised to find that I agree with you.

    • dalai guevara

      So why is it that the Brits only rival the Morewegians and the Finish up please in their internationally unrivalled cultural heritage of ‘fighting for a cab’?

      I frankly just don’t get what that is all about. Can you help explain?

    • the midatlantic

      “despite a capacity for alcohol long remarked upon by other people”

      You’re the man, bro.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Agreed Mr Nelson.

    This minimum pricing business will not affect the night time ‘hell’ politicians have been told about by the authorities but it will affect the poorest who behave themselves, the calculation being that these people rarely vote and so don’t matter – so why are they doing it? The police believe it will help (it probably won’t) but the illiberal medical establishment have something else on their mind. This is surely part of the Long March to do to alcohol what they have almost achieved with tobacco. There’s enough of an alliance between police and medics and ordinary folk who don’t want to wade through technicolour yawns on Saturday and Sunday mornings to carry this measure.

    It won’t work but there is an illiberal establishment attitude for more tax and more legislation on stuff that is ‘bad’ for us.. Drinking too much is what we do and by God we are good at it. Folk like Cameron, Clog and Milliband just don’t get it and are blissfully ignorant of the perils of bearing down too hard on this part of the nations character.

    • James Healey

      Why do you say there’s an alliance between police and medics on this? Most coppers like a drink (including the binge variety) as much as, and often more than, the next man – you mustn’t confuse the sanctimonious, politically correct mutterings of ACPO with “the police” – most of us despise them!

      • Hexhamgeezer

        by the ‘police’ i mean the organisation and it’s official mouthpieces – the Guardian paramilitaries.

  • NiceTeaParty

    It’s the plague of modern democracy. The need to ‘do something’.

    Like prostitution, like pornography, like adultery, like drug abuse, drunkeness and debauchery are as old as humanity itself. From the first cavemen to the cavemen of today man, and woman, have been getting sozzled and causing a nuisance of themselves.

    Yet the modern MP will, like Cnut, attempt to stop the ebbs and flows of human existence with the cry ‘something must be done’.

    As with the cry to regulate the press, the cry for temperance, or something closer to temperance than intoxication on a Saturday night, results in much heady rhetoric and legislation but achieves very little real change in how people want to conduct themselves.

    • Colonel Mustard

      Nowadays there is a whole industry of taxpayer-funded quangos, “charities”, pressure groups and assorted disapprovers, “something must be doners” and meddlers whose fat, cosy salaries depend on peddling this nanny stuff and extending the remit of their censorious, disapproving, taxing, licencing and banning aspirations. Taxpayers are literally paying to be pushed around by this well-paid but fundamentally unproductive class of society. Nice work if you can get it.

      • Dimoto

        Those are just noises off. The real poison are the Letwins and Willetts of this world who listen, believe, then present it to Cameron as their latest brilliant idea.

    • Adrian Drummond

      Perhaps a ‘British’ caveman since the problem is certainly not universal. I am currently living in Europe and I seldom see a policeman on a Friday or Saturday night.

      • Bluesman

        You are not in down-town Munich then? Bloody Kripos are everywhere.

    • Sarah

      Like smallpox, like slavery, like bear baiting, like witch burning.

      Drunkeness, domestic violence, sexual assaults, ABH, GBH, murder, suicides, puking/urinating/defacating/copulating, unwanted pregnancies, drunk driving, homelessness, overwhelming the emergency rooms might be old hat, but our towns being no go zones isn’t and it isn’t inevitable.

      It doesn’t happen by accident, it happens because drinks & night club businesses are being given licenses with inadequate terms and conditions and because our media and press industry creates the culture it does.

      Of course something must be done.

      • Baron

        Sarah, let’s shoot them all. That should do it for once and for all.

      • Whyshouldihavetoregister

        “Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy”
        – H.L. Mencken.

        • Sarah

          What in my list suggests happiness to you?

          • Bonzo34

            Copulating, mild drunkenness, not to mention defecating and urinating (I wouldn’t give those up if I were you, despite your apparent disapproval). Speaking from personal experience not being able to go for 48 hours didn’t enhance my happiness. I feel joy every time now. Did people really do smallpox for fun? You learn something every day.

      • Hexhamgeezer

        You really have a bad view of the females don’t you? Let them alone to enjoy what and where they can.

        • Sarah

          You have a bad view of females if you think this one is going to fall for that old chestnut of apathy in the face of injustice.

    • Austin Barry

      “Like prostitution, like pornography, like adultery, like drug abuse, drunkeness and debauchery are as old as humanity itself. ”

      Full House!!

      I’m off to the pub to celebrate my verified humanity.

      • Harold Angryperson

        Sod the pub, I’m off to Soho.

        • kevinlynch

          I lived in London about ten years ago and once took a walk through Soho at about midnight. Is it still full of black (prinipally Jamaican) drug dealers? Have they not been deported yet?

      • Hexhamgeezer

        what is this adultery of which you speak – and where can I get some?

  • DavidDP

    “emerging as a genuine Manchester-style liberal”

    Hmm. Genuine liberals also, as Mill did, take account of negative externalities. Not much evidence of that here.

    • Rhoda Klapp

      The old negative externalities again. Why don’t we have laws aganst all that bad behaviour? Oh, we do? Why don’t we enforce them?