It turns out that a letter I'd had printed in a local newspaper, in conjunction with an e-mail I sent to a Tory PPC, was the reason for my inclusion on the guest list barely two days before the event. I'm still at a loss as to why they made this offer, but as it was usually £50 per head and I was getting nosebag for free, who was I to grumble? Especially since the guest speaker was Oliver Letwin - one of the composers of the Tory manifesto - and a post-dinner question & answer session was promised. Ideal for getting my gobby self close enough to quiz a high profile politician at first hand, I thought.
Come the Q&A, there wasn't much chance of my hand being ignored as I held it up constantly through three long answers to previous questions. I think it was rather off-putting to Letwin as he kept firing a sideways glance to see if it was still there. As a result, I was handed the microphone soon after.
My question, as you might have guessed, was that Labour had aggressively attacked the lifestyles of working people with restrictions on what we consume, and did his party intend to get off of our backs and reverse some of these policies.
His answer was long-winded to say the least. Typically for a politician, he ran through many of Labour's illiberal measures, with reference to the European arrest warrant, detention without trial etc, and eventually - after two or three minutes - tacked on a sparse few seconds about the nanny state before declaring that "yes, we will roll back laws to afford more freedoms to the public.".
Of course, we've since seen that if there were ever any plans to give us back any freedoms, they must have been in those papers he was chucking in a park bin last year. We've seen nothing of the sort.
Now, the very same guy is saying stuff like this.
Oliver Letwin MP, minister or government policy, has described minimum unit pricing as “one of trying to affect behaviour” with regards anti-social drinking habits.Yet another, then, who doesn't actually believe you should have any freedoms at all. Well, not unless they are those politicians have decided are in accord with their own personal preferences, anyway.
He stressed that in no way did the government wish to “eliminate people ever drinking again,” ...Oh how very generous of you, Oliver. However, that this should even need to be stated is proof that these people have gone too far. Of course government should not be wanting to eliminate drinking, they are our servants, not our masters, have they forgotten?
... but also added that it was extremely difficult for an administration to hit upon the right solution.The solution is to ignore the incessant and shrill wailing of tax-sponging lobby groups and professional prohibitionists, and instead mould the state round how we taxpayers - who fund it, remember - wish to live. I know that would involve being brave and saying no to a few entrenched civil servants, but that's what a spine is for.
He continued that on the one side it was necessary that those selling and promoting alcohol were doing so responsibly but he also stressed the need to have a population that “of its own free will, will choose to behave in a responsible way”.Responsible according to whom? Well, the government, of course. So, just to translate, Letwin is saying that he wants us to enjoy our own free will as long as it is in a way that he and his chums have decided that we should.
“We can’t use ‘blunt’ legislative action to restrict the amount people are consuming. We can’t introduce the ‘Alcohol In Moderation Bill’ it’s just not practical."... Yet.
“How can you adjust attitudes? That’s why it’s a field of experimentation. We could, in theory, raise the minimum price to a level which makes it impossible for any but the extraordinarily rich to buy but people would find a way round it.
“Similarly, it can’t be too low as it wouldn’t have any effect. Minimum pricing is an effort to achieve a subtle behavioural effect."Here's a radical idea. You could always try to just do nothing and let the market - that is, us the public, remember us? - decide what prices are acceptable and what aren't. You see, Oliver, as one of the aforementioned 'extraordinarily rich', you couldn't give a monkey's bawbag either way, could you? So you should have absolutely nothing to do with dictating the prices that the rest of us have to pay (in another account of his speech, he declared that he wanted plebs' drinks to be "unpleasantly expensive"). Just stick to your state-funded high quality wine and champagne and leave us to decide if the price of a slab of Carling is acceptable or not, OK?
He even suggested that it would be possible to “adjust policy as evidence emerges as to the effects” on how successful they are proving."Yes, yes. We've known for a long time that the price level set for minimum pricing will be ratcheted rapidly upwards once you lot forever burden us with it. But thanks for the further confirmation.
The election rhetoric of 2010 is almost a lifetime away, isn't it? Change? What change?