Monday, 31 December 2012

Can't Work, Won't Work

I'll be off to a smokey-drinky in a couple of hours so I shall be early in wishing all fellow jewel robbers, and vaguely interested passers-by to your humble host's cyber abode, a very happy and prosperous 2013 to come. Yes, I know that's being optimistic, but you never know, eh? If you really fancy a round-up of what has irked us most this year, do drop by Snowdon's pad for a comprehensive list.

In the meantime, seeing as our smokey-drinky is promised to last many hours into the new year thereby potentially wiping out much of tomorrow, here are - in order - something to make your jaw drop; some quarter century old anecdotes; and one of the little Ps' fave videos of 2012.

Via the Devil and Guido, this news clip is one which has - unusually - tipped Mrs P into a bout of apoplexy. If you haven't yet come across it, find five minutes to listen to a guy who called LBC's Julia Hartley-Brewer to say that he had turned down employment because it meant he had to be at work by 8am.

Since Mrs P works in an office where her rotational shift often sees her starting before that time, she listened to 'Paul' in angry disbelief. I was more interested as to how little things seem to have changed despite the efforts of MPs over the past few decades.

In the 1980s Mr P Snr owned a pub in which I helped out regularly behind the bar. One of our workshy customers - who seemed to be able to spend every lunchtime in the place despite being on the dole - was a remarkable man in his 50s called Pete. Remarkable because of his amazing talent for avoiding any kind of paid employment whatsoever.

A trained electrician, he would always complain that there were just no jobs for him and blame the economy, nasty business owners or "that bloody Thatcher". Being an old-fashioned 'local', most knew him well enough to know these were just excuses and nodded along in faux sympathy. 

Despite this, one day the wife of another regular - who held a high-ranking position at a state-run institution about three miles away - pulled strings and got him a job on £300 per week (a very good wage at the time) overseeing the electrical system for their buildings. In front of the rest of the pub he was unable to refuse without losing all credibility, so took up the offer. 

However, the next week on a Friday, he was back in his usual seat in the pub at lunchtime when the lady job provider came in.

"What happened to you, Pete? You worked for two days but no-one has seen you since Tuesday", she enquired.
"Well", he replied "the job just wasn't right for me."
"Why ever not? It's a brilliant wage and the role isn't very taxing for someone with your training"
"Because I have to get a bus there, and it takes half an hour and costs me a pound each way" was his staggering response.

She just stood there open-mouthed for a few seconds taking this in, then told him he caused her a lot of embarrassment, before storming out. Pete merely shrugged his shoulders and carried on drinking his pint.

He later landed a job - after being threatened with losing his dole by the job centre - five minutes walk from his house at a local warehouse. It was a position where he mostly watched TV but was called upon to fix equipment and wiring and the like when required. He again lasted two days before claiming he had a bad back, going on long term sick, and then being fired which got him back on the dole where he was happiest.

So there have always been people like LBC's Paul around, and always will be, but that he seemingly doesn't see anything wrong with his turning down a job for reasons the rest of us would find ridiculous is also nothing new. Our pub's Pete also seemed able to kid even himself into a state of mind where he wasn't doing anything unusual, and reacted badly to any criticism directed towards him.

The best example was when a 'stranger' came into our local and, after ordering a pint, spotted Pete and greeted him warmly. It turned out he was an ex-local lad who had moved about 100 miles away and was only returning for a brief visit of old haunts after 25 years out of the area. After a few reminisces, he had the entire pub in stitches with this exchange.

"So, Pete, are you still doing that job you did last when I was around?"
"What job was that?", enquired Pete with a contented smile.
"Programme seller at the Queen's coronation", he fired back, followed by a raucous belly laugh.

As tears of hilarity were rolling down the cheeks of regulars who knew what Pete was like - and now knew that he had been that way for at least 25 years - he was emptying his glass muttering "what a fucking cheek!" before leaving with steam coming out of his ears and a furious purple colour on his face.

Needless to say, even that public put-down did nothing to change him.

By way of contrast, the guy below - who presumably had no problem with starting work before 8am on his stall - reportedly fell foul of visa regulations and had to leave the country.

Go figure.

Have a lot of fun tonight if that is what you're planning on, we'll chat again next year.

UPDATE: The Ashtray blog have provided an excellent run-down of how e-cigs fared in the past year.
2012 will be remembered as the year where electronic cigarettes came into their own and gathered the attention of millions.
It's also well worth a read.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

It's Not Harmful When WE Do It

There are times when you have to marvel at the superlative hypocrisy on display in Westminster.
John Bercow’s attempt to call time on Westminster’s hard-drinking culture was in tatters last night after plans for a total ‘no-alcohol’ policy for Commons staff were ditched. 
The Speaker has taken action to curb excessive drinking at the Commons after Labour MP Eric Joyce assaulted colleagues in a Westminster bar. Waiters are now told to top up glasses less frequently and provide more non-alcoholic drinks. 
But radical plans to tackle consumption among parliamentary staff – by banning drinking at work – have now been scrapped by Commons managers. 
In stormy meetings, rank-and-file workers complained the ban would not apply to MPs, saying: ‘Staff are being penalised because of the actions of drunk MPs.’
Incredible, isn't it?

This is the same collection of 650 besuited individuals who - in recent years - have installed an immensely damaging alcohol duty escalator; have encouraged local authorities to issue contracts with drug and alcohol at work policies attached (as in, suppliers must pledge to prohibit their employees from enjoying a lunchtime pint); are currently consulting on minimum alcohol pricing; and have raised the possibility of plain packaging for alcohol.

Now they have the brass neck to try to impose a teetotal regime on Westminster staff ... while at no time ever considering applying any such restrictions to themselves.

Truly they must be superhuman. Just the feat of being elected to parliament renders alcohol harmless to their system and - unlike the other 60 odd million of us, obviously - perfectly capable of making their own free choices.

What unutterable bastards we suffer running this country, eh?

Friday, 28 December 2012

A Nanny Looks Forward To 2013

Sorry, I did try but just can't let this pass without comment.
A government minister has written to magazine editors asking them not to promote post-Christmas "miracle" diets because they pose a "health risk". 
Equalities minister Jo Swinson wrote an open letter asking magazines to "shed the fad diets and fitness myths" in their January editions. 
She suggested they "celebrate the beauty of diversity in body shape, skin colour, size and age" instead.
This, from a minister in one of the most guilt-ladelling, obesity-obsessed administrations in history. Perhaps she would be better served sending a letter to each and every one of the 650 MPs in parliament telling them to go easy on their fatty-bashing language, no?

Add into this that unless she sent the letter about a month ago, magazines will almost certainly already have their articles lined up and ready to hit the shops the moment 2013 kicks in. You're too late, Jo.

Besides, I haven't seen anyone stating the bleeding obvious on this story yet. What right does she think she has to attempt to place herself between what people write and what the public would like to read? It's a sad reminder of the level of arrogant over-reach now endemic in political circles.

In other news, still no end in sight for the country's trillion pound debt.

Only A Third?

Amusing quote of the day.
The campaign comes in response to statistics that show more than a third of smokers still think the health risks associated with smoking are greatly exaggerated.
That'll be because they most definitely have been.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

The 'Next Logical Step' For Fake Charity Control

It has been more than encouraging to see that government have now embraced the term 'fake charities'. I'm hoping that the Devil will have something to say about this considering he coined it in the first place.

Longrider has commented on this development a couple of times this week, most recently by referencing an article by Crristina Odone in the Telegraph. His comments are spot on.
I may or may not support pro-choice legislation in Ireland, or protests against “cuts” in government spending. But that is political campaigning, not the charity’s business. I detect a sleight of hand: the nabobs of the charity industry raise money for good works, but spend it on the enjoyable business of lobbying.
Precisely. There is charity and there is political lobbying and the two should not mix. We are now in a position where political lobby groups such as CASH, ASH and Alcohol Concern are masquerading as charities, yet if they had to live by public donation alone, they would disappear overnight. They are not charities, they are thinly disguised front organisations for the temperance movement, intent on lobbying the state to interfere in our lifestyle choices and the Charity Commission should do the right thing and remove their charitable status and the state should do the right thing and withdraw all funding for charities.
We can but hope.

There is more than that when it comes to the likes of ASH and Alcohol Concern, though. You see, these are not just charities which have, or still do, rely on state funding. Both were also created by the state in the first place.

ASH was formed by the government in 1971 because - and I kid you not - our MPs thought that there wasn't a decent anti-smoking organisation in operation. It didn't matter to them that the reason behind that was that the people they serve didn't really care whether someone smoked or didn't, they just threw some money around and formed a 'charity' which now spends its time (and taxpayers' money) 'denormalising' 21% of the population and badgering for more laws with which to do so.

Alcohol Concern was similarly created by the Thatcher government of 1985, again because there was no will whatsoever for the public to throw money into a bucket for some hectoring tosspot to tell us all what to do with our private lives and choices.

If all that state cash were to dry up tomorrow, ASH would survive mostly on the back of pharma funding. The invention of the nicotine patch as a competitor to tobacco has facilitated that, and could arguably have been behind the formation of ASH in the first place. Alcohol Concern have recently lost their Department of Health funding but still receive other state income, while such piddling amounts of voluntary donations are sent their way that they can't really be properly termed a 'charity' at all.

So it's great that this state misuse of our taxes is being recognised at parliamentary level, but it doesn't go far enough. What the Charity Commission should also forbid is the shifting of funds from one charity to another whose activities are materially different to those which persuaded donors to hand over their cash.

If you give your money to a cancer or children's charity, for example, you should be confident that it is being spent on what you identify that charity with. What should never happen is that they take that money off you ... and then forward it to state-created lobbying organisations like ASH and Alcohol Concern (which happens now).

Odone has rightly pointed out that charities like to use their donations to lobby - which is wrong in many circumstances - but it also needs to be highlighted that most large charities also give public donations to other charities, including many fake ones which most of us would disagree very strongly with.

The whole charity sector needs to be swept of all its corrupt practices, and the sharing of money with organisations the general public don't give a rat's arse about is utterly shameful, and harmful to the very concept of charity giving.

Now that state funding of charities is rightly in the radar as something quite distasteful, so too should be the redistribution of donations from charities with which a donor agrees ... to ones which they don't.

It's, ahem, the next logical step in controlling the fake charity menace.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Education For Life, Not Just For Christmas

I do hope Christmas is going down as well with you as it is in Puddlecoteville.

Yesterday, a dozen of us descended on one of those licensed restaurants - which used to be called pubs - for a meal where we could just leave the plates and bugger off when we'd had our fill of turkey and Sancerre. On returning home (via a few hours at a house containing a Wii machine to knacker the little Ps with Just Dance), Mrs P and I enjoyed a joyous but intangible Christmas present.

I'm not sure exactly when the practice started, but we've taken to pinching small portions of the little uns' bits and bobs every now and then. For example, a few chips from a Maccy D's meal, a spoonful of their after dinner dessert, a couple of sour sweets from the pick'n'mix. You know, that sort of thing.

We call it 'tax'.

They've reluctantly become accustomed to it, and it was helpful in explaining the concept of taxation in their younger years. You should have seen the look on their faces when we first described how many things the government applies this to. They were particularly amazed at road tax, fuel duty and VAT on top of it with relation to transport ... and that was before going on to explain toll roads, insurance duty and fees for some to park outside their own home.

They each received a Galaxy selection box, amongst other things, yesterday morning and we - with tongues firmly in cheek - announced that the tax would be a Ripple bar from one and a bag of Minstrels from the other. It was heartening to find out later that the very sweets in question had, without our noticing, been spirited away into hiding places in their rooms.

Oh joy! They already know about tax, but now they have developed a practical understanding of tax avoidance too.

Now that's something they won't learn in the state education system, eh?

Monday, 24 December 2012

Talk To The Hand ...

Well, it's later on parade than previous years, but the BHF just couldn't resist a bit of last-minute scaremongery.
Feasting on Christmas Day could see the average person eating the equivalent of half a pack of lard in saturated fat and as much salt as would be found in 50 packets of crisps, the British Heart Foundation has warned. 
Victoria Taylor, senior heart health dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, said: "I'm sure many of us will overindulge on Christmas Day and if that's where it stopped it probably wouldn't make that much difference. 
"But once you've added together the Christmas parties, family gatherings and New Year festivities it's likely that you're eating and drinking much more than recommended."
Oh, do go boil your head, love. Is there a recommended level of nagging per year? Because, if so, I reckon the BHF exceeded it around February time.

Merry Christmas to everyone who has passed by this tabloid corner of cyberchatter in the past twelve months. Ignore the bores, enjoy the day and live it up like a mofo. Cheers!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Give A Good Guy A Seasonal Pat On The Back

As we wind down for Christmas, you might like to consider doing something modest to pat a good man on the back for protecting our interests in 2012.

If you look to the sidebar on the right, you'll see that our esteemed mascot is described as Spectator Readers' Representative of the Year 2011. This accolade was awarded to our Phil last December after we pointed out his outstanding efforts in the previous twelve months.

It was described by Conservative Home as "a very good choice" at the time. That's handy, because I think he'd make a very good choice for Con Home's Conservative Parliamentarian of the Year Award 2012 too. So I have nominated him and hope some of you may see your way to doing the same.

As if you needed any justification, our Phil has been just as principled and busy this year as in 2011 hence why I reckon he deserves more encouragement.

He appeared in many articles opposing minimum alcohol pricing as the consultation was announced, and got in early with his condemnation of the policy when opposing arch-alcohol prohibitionist Sarah Wollaston in the Spring.

He was also prominent in the debate against plain packaging, with quotes of his being picked up by the BBC and a number of other media outlets. Six months ago, he was also front and centre in a collective letter to Andrew Lansley slamming the idea and expressing "serious concerns".

He has continued his insistence that the UK should be given a referendum on the EU, and for the second year in succession called for a cut in the EU budget. It's interesting to note that last year he was one of 37 MPs who did so, while this year it was 51 with others feeling emboldened by the courage of those like our Mr D.

In September he also put his name to a bill designed to cut to the heart of the EU problem by repealing the European Communities Act 1972. It is partly through action such as this that yesterday saw David Cameron claiming that a Tory eurosceptic stance is back on the agenda.

And as if that wasn't enough, he also called for expenses cheat Denis MacShane to face criminal charges; defended the press against state intrusion; gave the BBC's Lord Patten a torrid going-over in committee, resulting in his being called 'impertinent' for having the cheek to ask how our money is spent; described George Orwell's 1984 as a book that "best sums up 'now'", and still had time to express his wish to be a Gruffalo.

How can it possibly be anyone else, eh?

If you have a moment spare, you can nominate by clicking this Con Home article and simply adding your choice, and reason behind it, to the comments.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Every Journey Begins With A Single Step

Note: I am not Dick Puddlecote.

Thank you to Dick for inviting me to comment at his blog, I hope to bring you some useful travelling information for smokers drawing on my experiences as a business travelling bear.

To introduce myself, I am a Project Manager for an international business concern and spend more than 50% of my time travelling to clients around the world. I enjoy red wine, tobacco and am an Arsenal fan for my sins, but don't let that put you off.

I have some notes on smoking policies at airports and other venues in places including Singapore, Dubai, Australia and America amongst others, and have many stories to tell as well as expecting many more in the future. I have only just started to collate notes on what I have seen before after talking via email to Dick, but I shall be making sure to share whatever observations I gather on my travels more in the future.

For a taster, why don't I begin with my home airport of Birmingham because every journey begins with a single step, as they say.

Birmingham airport, unbeknown to a lot of occasional travellers, now boasts a smoking balcony which is unusual in Britain but not in the rest of the world. This, for the observant, is advertised on boards outside the airport so keep your eyes peeled on the way in. What they don't tell you is that shortly after opening this facility, they decided to put an entry code on the door.

The balcony is located through a door on the right hand side when entering the Meriden bar. You can get the code at the bar. However, you appear to have to be a customer to get the code which can be expensive and best avoided if on a budget. It seems to change every couple of months and was 1121 a couple of weeks ago. I will update when I can. Note that if you stand by the door, the constant traffic will ensure you get out there without the code because, contrary to what you are told by newspapers and others, people like to smoke and footfall is very busy. Smokers are also very approachable too, so people who have been out there or returned will only be too happy to share the code even if it is a quiet day.

To stay close to home for now, here are a couple of brief tips about travelling to airports in Germany, particularly Munich.

Unlike other German airports, Munich airport does not sell EU paid cigarettes. Also, if you look at the official website, it tells you that Bavaria is most strict on the smoking ban and you cannot smoke in the airport anywhere. This is completely untrue. In common with other German airports, some areas have Camel smoking cabins. There are also some smoking rooms with decent seating and as comfortable surroundings as we can hope for these days. Frankfurt and Dusseldorf airports have just as agreeable places to smoke indoors.

I hope that this will have been informative as a cut out and keep starting point, I have a couple more posts in the pipeline but would welcome any comments questions or hints about destinations you could share with me. My articles will be tagged under Bear Tripper for your future reference.

Happy travels!

Introducing Bear Tripper

Unlike your mostly landlocked transport industry host, there are others who work in areas whereby they travel overseas a helluva lot. Some of them are smokers, so I'm sure many who visit here will be very glad to read contributions from my first invited guest blogger, Bear Tripper.

After some talk via e-mail, I'm pleased that BT will be writing occasional pieces here to inform you as to the state of smoking facilities at international airports and lounges that they encounter, along with tips on policies in hotels and other local establishments around the world.

BT is a prolific business traveller with knowledge of tobacco allowances and restrictions at entry and exit points of many far-flung destinations, along with other observations, so I hope you will give a warm welcome.

The first of BT's articles will appear here soon. Comments and queries are, as always, very welcome and will be answered by BT personally where possible.

EU Confirms Westminster Is A Waste Of Time And Money

How much do you reckon the Palace of Westminster is worth? And what about Portcullis House?

In fact, just about every building and piece of land central government stands upon would make a pretty penny in reducing the deficit if sold off, eh? The Department of Health's Richmond House is on prime South London real estate within easy walking distance of Waterloo station and just an inexpensive cab fare to the West End. 30 luxury flats there would fetch a million each, I reckon.

Well, why not cash in? The country is in trouble, as we are constantly told, and it's not like government is doing anything useful for us any longer.

With regard to Richmond House, for example, this is where a very expensive and lengthy consultation on plain packaging of tobacco has been handled. There's a guy there called Andrew Black who has been directing millions of pounds of our taxes towards it. One of the central questions in the consultation was this one.
1. Which option do you favour? 
● Do nothing about tobacco packaging (i.e., maintain the status quo for tobacco packaging);
● Require standardised packaging of tobacco products; or
● A different option for tobacco packaging to improve public health.
I, of course, amongst many others plumped for the first. Do nothing.

However, the EU announced yesterday that the above question was a waste of all that taxpayer loot (empahses theirs).
● Labelling and Packaging: All cigarette and Roll Your Own packages must contain a combined picture and text health warning covering 75% of the front and the back of the package and must carry no promotional elements. The current information on tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide, which is perceived as misleading, is replaced by an information message on the side of the pack that tobacco smoke contains more than 70 substances causing cancer. Member States remain free to introduce plain packaging in duly justified cases.
May as well pension off Black, make his tobacco control division redundant and save the wage bill. What's the point? If the EU are calling the shots and over-riding sovereign democracy, what's the point of them?

Now then, onto the MHRA, where are they housed? Wow! Buckingham Palace Road, now there's a prime bit of land if ever there was one. Forget closing libraries, sack the staff and sell that off for tens of millions too.

They held a consultation last year on e-cigs which concluded [pdf]:
The majority of importers and users of unlicensed electronic cigarettes were opposed to regulation by the MHRA, the latter fearing that this would mean an immediate ban on products currently available and that this could lead them back into smoking tobacco. Public health focussed organisations too raised concerns that an immediate move to medicines regulation would lead to potentially useful products being taken off the market and/or innovation being stifled.
"Who cares?", said the EU yesterday.
Nicotine Containing Products (e.g. electronic cigarettes) below a certain nicotine threshold are allowed on the market, but must feature health warnings; above this threshold such products are only allowed if authorised as medicinal products, like nicotine replacement therapies.
Exactly the opposite of the MHRA's consultation conclusions, with the threshold being so low as to make e-cigs effectively useless [pdf page 9].
The proposal stipulates that NCP that either have a nicotine level exceeding 2 mg, a nicotine concentration exceeding 4 mg per ml or whose intended use results in a mean maximum peak plasma concentration exceeding 4 ng per ml may be placed on the market only if they have been authorised as medicinal products on the basis of their quality, safety and efficacy, and with a positive risk/benefit balance. NCP with nicotine levels below this threshold can be sold as consumer products provided they feature an adapted health warning.
All that effort by MHRA was wasted; all the money spent in producing it was thrown down a gold-plated SW1 drain; every one of the multitude of responses was a waste of the public's time; and all of the concerns of public health groups have been ignored.

Brussels just puffed out its chest and roared "who's the Daddy!".

May as well scrap the system of business promoting grants too.
I have learned that British American Tobacco (BAT) will announce today the acquisition of CN Creative, a Manchester-based company which specialises in the development and production of non-combustible cigarettes. 
CN is one of a small number of companies to have benefited from the Government's £200m Future Technologies Fund, which was set up by the last Labour administration to give British companies a stronger foothold in life sciences.
What taxpayer funds the UK government giveth, the EU taketh away. It would seem that the task of identifying a UK politician with real power is as futile as trying to find a supermarket curry which is actually spicy.

Look. If we're serious about making savings to reduce the deficit, let's go for the big fish instead of snipping away around the edges. Westminster is completely irrelevant, as the EU proved with just one document, and might as well save its time and money by letting Brussels ride roughshod over anything they waste our cash on. Sell it all off and build a luxury hotel and casino instead, at least that way the staff within it will be productive rather than draining our pockets with their daft schemes.

Of course, there is always the option of keeping the empires in Whitehall and Westminster but - if so - it would require ceasing paying £40m per bastard day to the EU. Paying that and impotent regulators in the UK is patently absurd on yesterday's evidence.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The EU Acts Swiftly To Protect Profits Over Health

Today is the day that the EU unveiled one of the worst kept secrets of 2012 - the new Tobacco Products Directive.

So what does it entail?
The draft rules include plans to ban ... packets containing fewer than 20 cigarettes. ...
Hear that? None of that packets of 10 or 14 mullarkey any more, you've got to buy 20 at a time now. I think anyone who has purchased 200 on the way back from holiday will vouch for the fact that if they are there, they're gonna be smoked faster than usual unless in possession of stoic willpower.

I expect the idea is that youths will find it difficult to pay the extra for 20. No they won't, idiots, they will just shell out the extra £3 (pocket money according to anti-booze campaigners) and smoke them quicker. A win for big tobacco, then.
... and would keep the current EU sales ban on snus outside Sweden in place.
Great idea. Instead of following the lead of a country with the lowest smoking prevalence in Europe - by a massive margin, I might add - let's just keep the major reason for it banned and carry on regardless, eh?

As a former ASH UK supremo points out ...

That's correct. Not to reduce harm, or to protect those who smoke by offering less risky alternatives. Nope, it's to protect eurocrats from confessing that they have fucked up.
That's the important thing, eh? We wouldn't want the EU to damage its credibility by admitting it made a mistake.
Smoke if you've got 'em, lads and lasses, it's OK as long as EU blushes are saved.

Anything else?
The European Commission is to propose ... a total ban on flavourings such as menthol
Crikey! That could actually help, couldn't it? I mean, it might just encourage those who are finding it hard to quit, but only like flavoured baccy, to move to something less damaging such as e-cigs. There are plenty more palatable flavours available with them and they are 99% less harmful. Good move!

Oh, hold on.
The EU legislation will also propose a "de facto" ban on electronic cigarettes, which deliver a smokeless nicotine hit, which in future must be authorised as "medicinal products".
So that's out too. It's almost like the EU are promoting a policy which could be described as, I dunno, quit or die. But that would be pretty silly as it would only benefit either tobacco companies or ...

Aha! The penny has just dropped! There is another big industry which sells nicotine and which relies for its profits on smokers not slipping through the net with low risk alternatives which they don't control, isn't there?

Little wonder then, that an Imperial Tobacco spokesman is so chipper.
"We are confident looking many years into the future that the EU will be an area where we can sustainably grow and develop our business."
Indeed. With the EU introducing measures which ensure the profits of big industry for years to come, how can they or big pharma possibly fail? Nice work, Brussels.

Of course, there are others who will be breathing a big sigh of relief now that their pharma sponsors have dodged a bullet [pdf page 10].
ASH and allies continue to work hard to ensure that the passage of the Directive through the European legislature proceeds as planned.
Wahey! Trebles all round.

It has never been about health, you know.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Minimum Alcohol Pricing Will Be Good For Pubs?

Well, this has been the claim by CAMRA anyway. But, you know, I don't reckon they have fully thought through the inevitable consequences of such a concept being widely accepted.

The Sheffield University study which the whole charade is based upon - madcap fantasy such as it is - already has a clause designed to impose the same on the on-trade in due course. In fact, it is claimed that extending minimum pricing to pubs too is the best possible outcome.
Differential minimum pricing for on-trade and off-trade leads to more substantial reductions in consumption (30p off-trade together with an 80p on-trade minimum price -2.1% versus -0.6% for 30p only; 40p together with 100p -5.4% compared to -2.6% for 40p only). This is firstly because much of the consumption by younger and hazardous drinking groups (including those at increased risk of criminal offending due to high intake on a particular day) occurs in the on-trade. It is also because increasing prices of cheaper alcohol in the on-trade dampens down the behaviour switching effects when off-trade prices are increased.
So, while Cameron is harassed by his cabinet insisting he just take his medication and shut his bloody cakehole, it's not too surprising to see the first victims of minimum alcohol pricing being ... pubs!
Two Newcastle bars are set to become the first in the UK to be licensed to sell alcohol at a minimum price in excess of a pound a unit. 
Decantus (30-32 Grey St) and the Grey St Café Bar and Grill (77 Grey St/21-27 Market St) have been awarded a premises licence subject to a condition that alcohol is sold at set prices which equate to minimum price of £1.25 per unit of alcohol. 
This is nearly three times the 45p per unit price currently subject to government consultation.
A modest starter for ten but, now it is installed as a condition, only a fool would believe it won't rise whenever some councillor wants yo generate a self-righteous headline in the local rag. And, once Newcastle politicians trumpet how brilliant their genius idea is (well, they're hardly going to admit it has failed, are they?), the scope for applying it to other pubs will be irresistible.

Wham! Before you know it, that's yer Wetherspoons under the council's price control mechanism.

No wonder Wetherspoons owner, Tim Martin, is so forthright about the danger minimum alcohol pricing will present to the on-trade.
"It's utter bollocks, basically."

Hey, CAMRA, you're not helping much, you know.

The Biter Bit

Recipes by prominent TV chefs are less healthy than supermarket ready meals, Newcastle University researchers say. 
Meals by Jamie Oliver, Lorraine Pascale, Nigella Lawson and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall were compared to those from Asda, Sainsbury's and Tesco. 
The meals in TV chefs' cookbooks contained more calories, fat, saturated fat and sugar - but less salt.
I've just finished a fifth reading of this BBC article, it just gets funnier every time. Perhaps Jamie should start campaigning against himself.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Cameron Off With The Fairies Again

I want to tell you a story.

I once knew a guy who was a very well-paid buyer for a major supermarket. He wasn't around much, mostly taking flights to places like Brazil and the Philippines, and occasionally very hard-to-reach places like Senegal. Hard-to-reach because he was entitled to fly business class and some of the backwaters he went to involved tortuous journeys in economy. Oh, the inhumanity!

He would tell me about his trips when he was in the pub back in blighty, along with the luxuries he was treated to by those who were begging for an order.

He has played golf at Pebble Beach, for free; sampled 150 year old Armagnac at three Michelin star restaurants, for free; and been wined, dined and generally made to feel like a God the world over ... for free. I don't see him much these days since he moved to North Africa to oversee the company's acquisition of a major indigenous supermarket chain.

However, wherever he is, if he was reading the Telegraph online on Friday, I'm sure he would have had a right chuckle over David Cameron's stunning lack of understanding of the retail market.
Families like mine pay more for food to subsidise binge drinking, says David Cameron 
Middle class families are being charged more for every day food in supermarkets to subsidise cheap alcohol deals for binge drinkers, David Cameron has said.
Timmy has already described why his credulous opinions are desperately flawed, while Leg Iron and Mudgie have had some fun with the article too, but why not just add this little nugget, eh?

You see, what do you reckon my pal was buying? Meat, perhaps? Vegetables? Was he overseeing the frozen food buying policy?

No, he bought tuna. Not fresh tuna, either, that was someone else's job. Tinned tuna. Crab was the task of someone else too, as was salmon and pilchards. He only bought tinned tuna for just one supermarket. But when he finally put in an order, it was in the tens of millions of pounds ... per couple of months.

He did this because he knew the price of a tin of tuna, and what would be the price most favourable for buying the tuna. He didn't ever ring up a guy who buys alcohol and ask how much leeway he had to buy the tuna. He. Just. Bought. Tinned. Tuna.

I really believe Cameron is struggling to understand the vastness of supermarket budgets and how they don't pre-dispose themselves towards puerile, simplistic theories such as the one he has allowed himself to be quoted on in public. Giving away big bucks in selling alcohol compromises each and every one of the many supermarket buyers of every chain. No matter the economies of scale, supermarkets would find it mind-fuckingly complicated to attempt playing around with margins on every food item they sell just to give chavs a cheap ride on alcohol.

What's more, he bases his entire opinion on the 'evidence' provided by that renowned global economist Dr Chris Record, a liver specialist from Newcastle University. Someone who isn't even aware of his own area of expertise, let alone that of others.
“Alcohol consumption in the UK has been rising dramatically. You can get your recommended daily allowance of alcohol for the same price of a bag of crisps. It’s ridiculous."
Not quite as ridiculous as an alcohol expert who is obviously mathematically illiterate, according to the BBC and the ONS.
Britons have been drinking less and less every year since 2002. 
Men and women of all ages are slowly curbing their excesses and drinking in moderation, according to the annual survey from the Office for National Statistics, which covers England, Scotland and Wales.
Or, indeed, as ridiculous as a Prime Minister who ignores all proper economic and retail experts, instead preferring to base his policies on the raving opinions of a Walter Mitty fantasist.

Remember, people, that this Cameron guy is in charge of the economy too! Scary, huh?

John Prescott Proves Why Politicians Shouldn't Be Allowed Dominion Over The Press

John Prescott tonight published this extraordinary tweet.
The image shows a family in grief at hearing their child had been killed in the Newtown shootings. It's powerful and heart-breaking, but I suggested that it is an photo which a news-gatherer would argue should be seen in the wider debate of US gun control.

The opposite view was that we knew the horror of Newtown, but that the Mail was just indulging in voyeurism.

Yet we knew, for example, that napalm was being used in Vietnam but this picture is one of the most iconic of all time, earning Associated Press photographer Nick Ut a Pulitzer Prize for its dramatic effect on public opinion of the war.

Prescott would surely consider an image of an naked 8 year old girl in excruciating pain a bit intrusive, yes? Had he been in a position of power at the time, would he have mobilised his huge following to cascade complaints towards newspapers which published it?

And what about this image of an execution during the same war? What could possibly be more intrusive and damaging to a family than the moment of a person's death captured for eternity?

Again, the world was fully aware that people were being killed for nothing more than ideological reasons, but this is currently on the BBC website and described as an "image [which] was to change the public perception of the war".

There has been an ongoing debate within press photography and beyond as to what is correct behaviour and what is not. For example, Malcolm Browne won the World Press Photo of the Year award in 1963 ... but shouldn't he have put down his camera and put the flames out instead?

The picture which has so enraged Prescott was submitted by the well-respected Getty Images, so it just comes down to who published it. The Mail claims that other publications around the world have done so, and I expect they have done. It would be reasonable for an editor to argue that its publication is justified in light of the gun control debate and also the entrenched positions from both Republicans and Democrats. 

I suspect that Prescott merely sees a newspaper he dislikes printing a controversial photo, though, and decides it is time for some Punch and Judy politics. I fully expect the same pic published by the Guardian would be described as courageous but, even if not, there is no way he would be frothing at the mouth and mounting a crusade as he is tonight.

It is all the proof we need that politicians should not be allowed anywhere near press regulation - their partisan political views are far too strong for them to ignore and be objective. 

Progressing To The 1950s

As we approach the festive season, with all the culinary delights it entails, here is a seasonal message of goodwill from public health talking shop, the Conversation.
Interestingly, during the years when rationing was enforced, the prevalence of obesity was negligible in the United Kingdom. And waste was minimised as both individuals and government agencies were busy finding new ways of reducing the waste of food resources to a minimum (sustainable consumption). 
Is it conceivable that some form of food rationing and portion control may help address the dramatic rise in obesity and the sustainability of our foods supply? If we continue to over-consume foods in unsustainable ways for both our health and our planet, we may be left with no other choice.
When you've picked your jaw up off of the floor, we'll continue.

It is interesting to note that political groups who like to call themselves 'progressive' are the most enthusiastic towards bans and restrictions on lifestyle choices such as this. A sizeable majority of public health professionals, too, would willingly describe their agenda as 'progressive', though how a return to 1950s food control can be remotely linked with progress is entirely beyond me. I wonder if this rationing will be suspended for Christmas time? Whaddya think?

Well, considering über-progressive George Monbiot was arguing last week that we should make Christmas presents out of sticky back plastic and egg boxes, I suspect not.

Good grief.

H/T MyChoice Australia

UPDATE: I've just noticed that Snowdon was quick off the mark with this public health claptrap.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Pleasure With A Capital P

Acclaimed Scottish actor Brian Cox has been busy cataloguing the history of a number of substances for the BBC in a series entitled Addicted to Pleasure. They are all very watchable and mostly devoid of the usual health hysteria, but his denouement for the episode on tobacco might be of particular interest.

A delightful end to a most engaging hour's TV, so if you're in the UK, why not brew a coffee - or, since it's a Friday, pour a stiffer beverage (whisky is next up for Cox) - and view the whole thing.

By way of bonus, a friend of this blog appears around the 15 minute mark.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Minds Like A Sponge, So Get 'Em Young

After a few months respite, I was beginning to think that state educational silliness had been left behind now my two have left primary school. It has come thick and fast in the past couple of days, though.

If you follow on Twitter, you may have seen these tweets yesterday afternoon.

Then today I had this conversation with the boy.
DP: How was school?
Little P: We went to some temples.
DP: Temples?
Little P: Yes, we, err ... oh never mind.
At this point, I think he must have noticed some of my heavy sighs in the past and was trying to save me the pain. Bless.
DP: No, carry on, you've started now.
Little P: Well, we went to a Jewish temple.
DP: You mean a synagogue.
Little P: Yes. The other half of the year went to a Sikh temple.
Little P: Then we all went to that mosque we see from the bus on the way to cricket.
DP: Great. So when are you going to look around a church?
Little P: I dunno.
DP: Are you doing a carol service in one, or anything?
Little P: Don't be silly.
Now, there's nothing wrong with learning about other religions - I remember having to put on a skull cap to tour a synagogue myself at school, albeit only for one lesson and not taking up the entire day - but shouldn't it be in the context of making it implicitly clear that this country is predominantly Christian? Because this certainly doesn't appear to be the case any more.

After the above exchange, I described my visit to the magnificent Muhammad Ali mosque in Cairo a few years ago. Perhaps mischievously, I asked if he knew which country Cairo was in. He didn't. In fact, he knew little about any capital cities at all, which I would have thought should be high on the list of basics for state teaching. Apparently not, all the right-on shite above is obviously far more important.

After this evening though, they do both now understand the word 'propaganda' and how it differs from the word 'education', so there's always a silver lining.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

No Man Might Buy Or Sell, Save He That Has The EU Mark

As you can imagine, the transport industry (yes, it's one of Dick's boring transport posts) is no stranger to over-enthusiastic regulations. When the subject of red tape comes up, I often find it amusing to detail the incredible hoops our company has to jump through to perform even the simplest of jobs and watch as the jaw of the person I'm conversing with drops in astonishment.

As such, I thought no daft new regulation or rule emanating from Westminster or Brussels could surprise me any more. However, today I was proved wrong.

In addition to the layer upon layer of legislation with which we are already forced to comply - some understandable, some not - our sector has recently had a brand new type of inspection imposed on us. It involves all of a certain type of vehicle being checked over for much of what is already checked in one or more of the seven inspections each vehicle must go through per year. Except this latest one is quite absurd.

For example, we have had vehicles failed, so effectively taken off the road, for trivia such as a factory-fitted - and therefore already EU compliant - air conditioning knob being 'too sharp', and one inch of a seat belt being slightly frayed, amongst other trifling reasons. Another insurmountable failure was for not producing a certificate for an alteration which has never needed certification before,  which we can't now get because the company ceased trading three years ago.

But, as I found out today, one of the other fail criteria is so unutterably crazy as to be almost disturbing.

A number of our vehicles have been failed for having windows (it need only be one) which bear the wrong safety mark. Instead of the new EU mandated logo (pictured left but which, for the UK, is E11), ours bear the previous British Standards (BSI) kite mark.

It doesn't matter that these have been working for seven or eight years for us,  the new rule is retrospective so they're off the road. Since we deal with specialist vehicles, all parts are priced at a premium so we were looking at a hefty bill if we are to replace so many pieces of glass - as we were told was the only solution by the testing centre - at around £200 each.

It begged the question why BSI kite-marked glass was no longer considered safe, whereas EU marked glass is. It is only thanks to this curiosity that we found that there is absolutely no difference between the two, it is the same standard of glass ... it just isn't marked correctly. The mark, and not the safety of the glass, is why our vehicles have been deemed unroadworthy. Unless the EU mark is visible on the glass, we cannot trade with that vehicle.

Yes, it's a relief not to have to shell out so much money, but it's still staggering that we are being forced - at pain of the vehicles being banned - to pay £50 per window to have the BSI mark erased, and the EU one etched on.

I've learned my lesson. I shall never again be arrogant as to assume I've seen it all from insane tax-funded bureaucrats.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Gay Marriage: A Thoroughly Modern Way Of Making Law?

Before you read this, I am not making any judgement on whether gay marriage is right or wrong. It's entirely irrelevant to this article, got that? Good.

What I find most interesting about the policy is that this appears to be the very first proposed law which has completely avoided even the remotest semblance of democracy. It wasn't mentioned in the Conservative, Lib Dem, or even Labour manifestos at the last election, but then we've become used to such documents being about as important as Andrex these days since the last government went to court to defend their right to mislead the electorate.

However, gay marriage within the auspices of a church is - as far as I am aware - the first major government policy which has not only not been voted on by the public, but which has also not been subject to proper government consultation. In fact, it was specifically stated that this was not an option (page 8, point 2.5). I expect this blog's official theologian will have an expert view on that.

If installed, it would be our first democracy-free piece of primary legislation (not SI), decided purely on the say-so of 650 privileged individuals in the Westminster politburo. It's the way of the future, obviously.

Or is there a precedent where our slippery state bastards honed their comprehensive public-avoiding skills? Go on, tell me I'm wrong.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Master Or Servant?

There's an interesting new contributor at the Freedom Association in the form of Tunbridge Wells Conservative Councillor, Nicholas Rogers.
Some talk of the ‘liberal establishment’ but the distinction is no longer worth making. These groups (e.g. Alcohol Concern, CASH, NICE), and others like them, ARE the establishment. Anyone who has been in local government or worked in the public sector will recognise the same attitude time and again; we know what’s best, you aren't living your life in the correct way and we will use taxpayer cash to ‘encourage’ you in the right direction. Challenge them about it and they don’t understand why anyone would disagree. 
The establishment mindset is that as long as intentions are good, actual outcomes don’t matter so much. It’s a mindset that demands conformity and punishes those who hold opposing views. The tragedy is some of those good intentions are really worth having – tolerance, openness, diversity. But often these concepts become tainted by the state’s involvement.
He's not wrong, you know.

The above paragraphs were written last week as part of a piece on minimum alcohol pricing but, as if to confirm precisely what Rogers was saying, the Irish government has today given us a perfect example of this anti-social state mindset.
SCOTTISH ministers have received strong support from the Irish Government in their battle with Brussels to avoid having minimum unit pricing of alcohol declared in breach of EU rules. 
Dr James Reilly, the Irish health minister, backed Scotland's position, saying: "I wish to express my full support for the Scottish proposals on minimum unit pricing of alcohol. 
"This is an important policy measure to reduce the harmful consumption of alcohol, and in this regard, the Irish Department of Health is preparing proposals for similar legislation in Ireland. The introduction of a regime of minimum unit pricing per gram of alcohol was one of the main recommendations of a published report on alcohol earlier this year."
Minimum alcohol pricing is deeply unpopular, devoid of any credible evidence whatsoever, and is deliberately designed to hurt the least well off in society. Three key elements which should have seen this policy die a death a long time ago.

If you were tasked with explaining democracy to an alien from the planet Klung - you know, about how politicians are elected to act on the wishes of the public - he would point to minimum alcohol pricing and laugh his over-sized, pear-shaped green head off. Yet here we see governments ganging up to impose it against public will and all measures of common sense.

There are now two distinct sets of people in society; those who go about their daily lives doing normal things; and politicians and other state employees who have kidded themselves into thinking they are zoo keepers for the human race. If you complain, they just throw a bucket of bullshit at you and carry on regardless.

There's going to be a run on piano wire if these jumped-up servants (yes, servants!) don't start remembering that they're paid by the very same people they seem determined to marginalise, and that their first and only concern is to listen to the public - not vested interest fake charities and NGOs - and do as they're fucking told.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Another 'Myth' That, Erm, Isn't

Back in April, I critiqued a study by the tobacco control industry designed specifically to pretend plain packaging would have no effect on transaction times in shops. The study was, of course, utter garbage.

This was in response to ASH Scotland's claim that those predicting confusion and delay were merely spreading a 'myth'.
Proper research, measuring over 5,000 transactions in a carefully controlled setting found that, if anything, plain packs reduced transaction times and selection errors and certainly didn’t increase them.
Hmm, we know what counts as "proper research" for a tobacco controller, don't we boys and girls? It's usually some computer-modelled fantasy which bears no relation - in fact, mostly is the polar opposite - to what actually happens in real life. You know, with real people.

Meanwhile, in Australia where plain packaging is now an ugly reality ...
Nonetheless [store manager Kakha Tchatchanidze] believes the whole exercise is "pointless", and staff seem to agree. The only change they have noticed is increasing customer frustration at the amount of time it takes staff to find a particular brand amid the plethora of identical boxes.
Well, duh! Only a moron couldn't have seen that coming ... eh ASH?

Friday, 7 December 2012

Ignore The Police And HMRC, What Do They Know?

It's customary to end a blogger's week with a bit of light comedy, so what better than tobacco control's increasingly laughable grip on reality?

We've already seen how they are so very mad that they deny the fundamentals of economics, but their insistence that plain packaging won't make life easier for counterfeiters is even funnier. It should be clear to even the simplest of minds that reducing 200+ pack designs to just the one government-prescribed one is a Godsend to criminals. But no, not in wibbly-wobbly tobacco control land.

Deborah Arnott was adamant in this Sky News clip (2:55 onwards) that anyone stating the bleeding obvious is quite barking.

See, they have 'covert markings' now. It's just a tobacco industry smokescreen, so it is.

Except, of course, that it isn't the tobacco industry making this argument. Long-serving police chief, Peter Sheridan, has stated that the markings are going to be pretty useless when plain packaging comes in unless plod are routinely given gadgets to check every packet they see on the streets (5:25 onwards).

He explained that "things like colours, embossments and shapes, all are defence mechanisms" against counterfeiting, before going on to describe plain packaging at HuffPo UK as an idea which "will create a fertile ground for tobacco smuggling".

Still, I suppose Arnott will dismiss a well-respected police officer with 30 years' experience of tackling criminal gangs as some kind of tobacco industry shill. But what about state-paid employees like Mike Norgrove who is Director of Excise, Customs, Stamps and Money at HMRC?

He gave evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee a couple of months ago. Perhaps his professional experience is also inferior to the awesome fairy tale-spinning intellect of Deborah Arnott, eh?
Kate Hoey: Do you think there would be an increase, or what would you see as the effect, if this country was to follow the Australian line of going down plain packaging? 
Mike Norgrove: The Department has made representations, as everyone else has, on the consultation about the possible effects of plain packaging. 
Kate Hoey: Did you put in a submission? 
Mike Norgrove: We did. 
Kate Hoey: Is that public? 
Mike Norgrove: No, it was not a public submission. 
Kate Hoey: Right, okay; so you are not going to tell us. 
Mike Norgrove: I can say that the obvious danger from our point of view is that the ability to detect counterfeit or illicit material would be made more difficult by a system where there was no difference between one packet and another.
Good God! Do cranks like Peter Sheridan OBE and Mike Norgrove CBE not realise that Nanny Arnott is the font of all knowledge on law enforcement and illicit duty avoidance? Who do they think they are claiming to be experts? The bloody nerve!

It must be a tobacco industry plot. I mean, who could possibly believe Arnott is talking out of her tax-sponging backside ... again, eh?

Thursday, 6 December 2012

"It's Time We Take Our Freedom Back"

So that's what the odd noise was this morning - it was the sound of steam whistling out of the ears of thousands of anti-smokers.

Hats off to the BBC for bringing to our attention the new national TV adverts for Blu e-cigs in the US.
A new TV advert for a brand of electronic cigarettes marks the first time in decades cigarettes of any sort have been promoted on US television.
Oof! That must have been as welcome as a tactically-placed kick in the love spuds, eh?
A handsome actor poses and struts on a beach in a stylishly shot black-and-white television spot. He puts the cigarette to his lips, takes a puff, and exhales a rich flume. 
"Blu lets me enjoy smoking without it affecting the people around me, because it's vapour not tobacco smoke," says Stephen Dorff, the scruffy heartthrob star of The Immortals. 
"We're all adults here, it's time we take our freedom back."
Doncha just love that tagline? Here it is in context.

Now, I've always spoken in favourable terms of e-cigs. One of the reasons being that I could see the huge potential for irritating the bejaysus out of the fake coughing and arm-waving community, but this is even more deliciously forthright than I imagined the entry of Lorillard into the market would be.

Even as the tobacco control industry - in an effort to save pharmaceutical NRT profits by maximising cigarette sales - launch an all-out assault, mostly in the US, on e-cigs,  the battle still seems to be getting away from them. This is national exposure on a scale never seen before, and for every shrill voice against them there must be a few thousand seeing this product for the first time thanks to Stephen Dorff's ad. 

The same 'people power' I mentioned as having stymied the MHRA's plans to ban them over here is now creating a tipping point that is almost impossible for the more irrational, and irresponsible, tobacco controllers to counter.

Must hurt the big one. Eh, Duncan?

All those decades cultivating an environment where finger-wagging and tutting is acceptable behaviour towards the choices of others, and now they have to do it all over again with the new market entrant. And it came right out of the Blu, as it were.

"Time we take our freedom back". Ha! Love it!

UPDATE:  SteveVape expands on the ire this ad has caused to anti-smokers, and reckons such publicity will be banned sharpish. The difference is, there is a huge corporation batting for e-cigs now instead of a few inspired entrepreneurs. If Steve is correct, it will be fun to watch the tobacco control industry show themselves up as venal and uninterested in health again.


Tuesday, 4 December 2012

When Government Does It

Having done the rounds in the US a few days ago, I fully expected this to have popped up over here by now. But as it hasn't (AFAICS) ...

I was minded of this after reading Anna Raccoon's article on Starbucks.
Having harried and humiliated Starbucks, against all the rules of chugging, to find a way to increase their profits and thus pay more tax, Starbucks finally agreed and went away to think about it.
Another to add to the sample list (picked from thousands of other examples of state hypocrisy) above.

H/T Reddit Lib

Monday, 3 December 2012

Why Are The SNP So Quiet On Alcohol All Of A Sudden?

Something momentous happened today in Scotland. Something so absolutely brilliant that we should surely be expecting SNP politicians to be bouncing off the walls with excitement.

You see, the Scottish government's monitoring of their alcohol strategy showed that there has been a massive reduction in, well, just about everything.

The BBC reported it in their usual fashion.
Scots drink deaths fall but rates still high, says NHS
Which isn't quite what the report said.

Consumption is down; those drinking beyond guidelines is down; alcohol deaths are down; hospital discharge rates are down; liver disease rates are massively down; drink driving rates are down; drunkenness offences are down; and rates of kids drinking are down.

And what did the official Scottish government media briefing say about all of this? Triumphal, surely?

Nope. There was no mention of it whatsoever. Seriously. Absolutely nothing.

This, remember, from an SNP government which has been infesting every available media outlet for the past couple of years - Nicola Sturgeon front and centre - telling us all that Scotland really needs a minimum alcohol price as the 'alcohol epidemic' is out of control. Not a snifter of interest on her Twitter feed about this, though.

Now, could it be - and it's just a hunch, this - that "a decline in the volume of alcohol sold per adult, which fell by 5% from 2009-11" is a massive obstacle to the SNP's minimum pricing plan?
Researchers at the School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) said that in 2010 a floor price of 45p would have saved 50 lives in the first year, and 225 lives a year within a decade. 
Now a 50p basic price was needed to have a similar affect. That would cut overall consumption by 5.7%
It's hard to claim that future 5.7% reduction as the result of inspired lawmaking when your current stats show almost the same without any further interference, now isn't it? 'Cos they're now looking at at least 8% to 10% in the first year before they can boast anything much of interest (we're watching closely now thanks to Cameron, you see).

I've tweeted Nicola tonight, but she was a bit busy discussing arts on STV at the time. I'm sure she - or Scottish Health Minister Alex Neil who has been equally silent - will rejoice at this excellent news sometime soon. After all, they could hardly have missed it in the last 24 hours of their pristine silence.

Yep. Won't be long now.

Cameron's Allies Evaporate As He Punishes The Poor With Minimum Alcohol Pricing

Five days on from the launch of David Cameron's minimum alcohol pricing car crash, and it seems crystal clear from comments on social media how the public have assessed the idea. It correlates perfectly with the widely-publicised quote from Snowdon last week.
"The only certainty is that minimum pricing will transfer large sums of money from the poorest people in society to wealthy industries."
Yep, those 'Tory toffs' punishing the working class and poor again. It's such an incredibly easy hit for his political opponents that it's difficult to understand how any Prime Minister can possibly be advised so very badly.

It's not just class-led bias or lazy Punch and Judy politics, either. Even his own administration's backing documentation is unequivocal on the matter (impact assessment page 13).
"Analysis suggests that the lowest decile might experience the highest impact as a proportion of total expenditure or of income"
Someone, surely, should have seen this storm coming a mile off. Shouldn't they? Or maybe Cameron believes that we will all happily pay more because, you know, it's gonna work innit.

Not according to the first research on attitudes compiled by renowned drinks industry champion, err, Alcohol Research UK.
"Participants responses frequently reflected the view that minimum pricing was a universal rather than targeted approach to pricing that would serve to unfairly punish those who drink sensibly" (page 12)
"The overwhelming feeling was the people will continue to drink and will adjust to the higher prices, or change choice of drink" (page 17)
It's worse than that, though. You see, people are starting to look more closely at the issue and they're not liking it one little bit. Mudgie reports that signatures for the long-standing number 10 e-petition against minimum pricing have more than trebled in just a few days since the consultation was launched, and many are starting to properly query how much extortion the state employs towards alcohol.

Let's seize the day then, and help them.

Wine producer Château Bauduc has conjured up this very useful graphic detailing exactly how much consumers pay for bottles of differing prices but, more importantly, how much Cameron and his chums already steal off of us for a bit of relaxation.

Author Gavin also adds some revealing commentary.
As you can see, UK duty is nearly £2 a bottle (£1.90 now, rising to £2 in the next Budget) and there’s 20% VAT on the duty and the wine. UK wine retailers – whether supermarkets, merchants, websites or shops – have to add the dreaded £1.90 duty to the cost of the bottle before adding their margin and VAT. By contrast, there is no duty in Germany, Spain, Italy, Austria, Portugal and many other EU countries. In France, it’s 3p.
Thieving rascals, eh?
Whatever the results of the consultation into minimum pricing, it’s tricky to see how poorer wine drinkers who drink sensibly – students, pensioners, my extended family – will be better off. 
Let’s take that bottle of red wine I mentioned at 13% alcohol (9.8 units) which will rise to £4.41 from, say, £3.85 today (and some journalists still recommend wines at this price in national newspapers).  Will a professional buyer for a supermarket, with double the margin in their pocket as a result of the higher selling price that’s forced upon them, say to their supplier ’Yes, I’ll pay more for this’?
All of which means that beverages of choice for the less well of will not just rise in price, they will probably disappear altogether.

So, another lukewarm reception for the idea, this time from a supplier who might be expected to see some attraction in it. Which just leaves retailers themselves - with that lovely increased margin to salivate over - to back up our poor beleaguered spamhead.

But they're no mugs and understand - and cater for - the public very well (unlike some with a SW1A post code I could mention). They are well aware that dumping on them from a great height will not do much for their future prosperity, however many millions Cameron wants to take off the poor and deposit in big business bank accounts.

With the exception of Tesco, the general response from major supermarkets has been that the poor will be punished and that it is deeply unfair, while local shops will be mostly free to ignore the regulations entirely.

Still, he's gone and produced the consultation now so has committed to three months of abuse and questioning of his political antenna.

The berk.