Wednesday 28 November 2012

Cameron's Minimum Alcohol Pricing Car Crash

So the rumours were true, today was the day the government announced it was going all-in on minimum alcohol pricing.

It has been reported that this is despite stiff opposition from many areas in Westminster, including the cabinet itself. In fact, it would appear that this policy is being forced on us simply because David Cameron is obsessed with it.

He really seems to have changed his tune, hasn't he?
"The era of big, bossy, state interference, top-down lever pulling is coming to an end." David Cameron, June 2008
"No more of a government treating everyone like children who are incapable of taking their own decisions. Instead, let's treat adults like adults and give them more responsibility over their lives." David Cameron, February 2011.
In between buttoning up our November payroll and sorting out an issue with our bank, I've been watching the resultant explosion of disbelief and anger on Twitter from left, right and centre of the political spectrum.

Much of what I might have written on the subject, had I not been busy, has already been covered elsewhere, which you may have seen with links I have tweeted or retweeted today. Take your pick from the examples below.

Now, Mr P Snr - an old-school lifelong Conservative voter - is completely against the idea too, but has an interesting theory which he appears to be using to reconcile his idea of a Conservative politician with the batshit crazy behaviour of the Prime Minister.

He is of the opinion that Cameron is such a master of manipulation; such a political genius, that this is all a ruse. He's playing a game to appease the health lobby, in full and certain knowledge that parliament will reject it and he can be seen to have acted in a correct manner.

Yes, it's wishful thinking but how do you expect a real Conservative to react when the leader of a party he has always kept faith with comes out with a policy that Old Labour would have recoiled in horror at?

OK, so let's pretend for a minute that this was Cameron's plan all along. How is it faring?

Well, by taking control of the lower end of the drinks industry's pricing mechanism, he is - in effect - admitting that he doesn't believe in the free market. Never again can he advocate free market policies with a straight face, since all his opponents now need do is to point at minimum pricing and laugh maniacally at Cameron.

Additionally, he seems to have completely forgotten about those who accuse him and Osborne of being 'Tory toffs' who are out-of-touch with the public, and only in politics to bash the poor and promote the interests of the rich. Considering that minimum alcohol pricing is specifically designed to attack the poor, again he has played right into the hands of his detractors.

So, even before today, politically it was a car crash policy just waiting for Cameron to hurtle off in pole position.

However, if anyone were still to believe that he is still some kind of superhuman political guru with a long-term plan none of us mere mortals are able to envisage, the timing could not have been more spectacularly inept. You see, this was also announced today. And a political genius would have probably seen it coming.
Minimum alcohol pricing ruled ‘incompatible’ with EU regulations
Minimum pricing on alcohol is incompatible with European Union (EU) regulations and should not be introduced, according to the EU`s ruling body.
The European Commission (EC) said minimum pricing could restrict imports of foreign alcohol, putting international producers at a competitive disadvantage in Scotland. 
While the EC recognises that Scotland has one of the fastest-growing rates of chronic liver disease and cirrhosis in the world, it said minimum pricing is a "disproportionate" response. 
"The case-law of the EU Court of Justice is unequivocal to the effect that national legislation imposing minimum pricing in respect of particular products falls within the ambit of the Article 34 of the Treaty on the functioning of the EU (prohibition on measures having the equivalent effect of impeding imports of products)," according to EC general secretary Catherine Day. 
"All trading rules enacted by member states, which are capable of hindering directly or indirectly, actually or potentially, intra-EU trade are to be considered as measures having an effect equivalent to quantitative restrictions."
Yes. Just as predicted, it's illegal under EU law, a previously well-known fact that has now been double-underlined in bright red ink.

So Cameron has thrown away any credibility he thinks he had for favouring personal responsibility over the nanny state; has broadcast to the nation that Tories don't believe in free markets; has fully confirmed suspicions that he is a 'Tory toff' who cares little for the less well off; and has presumably shown that - while he will slavishly follow every EU diktat which harms his own countrymen - he will fight the EU to the bitter end in order to make every man jack of us pay more for our meagre pleasures.

Political visionary? I think not.

I note that he tasked Theresa May with announcing it ... she may as well have done so wearing baggy trousers, clown shoes and a big red nose.


Curmudgeon said...

"a policy that Old Labour would have recoiled in horror at"

I was just thinking today how Ernie Bevin would be turning in his grave at such a threat to the working man's pint. Unfortunately, today's Labour Party are a bunch of moral and intellectual pygmies in comparison.

George Speller said...

"Never again can he advocate free market policies"

not forgetting his interference in the energy market.

Phil Johnson said...

I think I put it on one of your facebook comments the other day DP....."Purely & simply an upper class twit!"

barnacle bill said...

How the hell can you have a millionaire in charge of the Labour Party?
A man who has never had the dirt of an honest day's work under his finger nails. Nor ever had to worry where the money is coming from to put some food on the table.
Blair and that Buffty frae Kirkcaldy certainly looked after the British working man's interests when they were in charge!

west2 said...

From the Daily Politics (28/11/2012 at about 20mins in) on minimum pricing.

Andrew O'Neil to Mathew Haddock (Con MP Minister for FE....): The home office said ... you weren't going to do it, you had no intention.

MH: No the Home Office didn't day we weren't going to do it, they said they had no intention.

Later MH clarifies: "The words aren't meaningless. The words are an accurate description of the situation" .... "When I say we have no intention to do something that means we have no intention to do something and when I say we absolutely won't do something then that means we absolutely won't do something"

So that's clears that up then.

ChrisB said...

Our political elite celebrate their Oxford 'education' and tell us we should aspire to such excellence. Sadly they prove it to be something real world people should avoid and proof positive our education system rewards obedience over intelligence.

woodsy42 said...

But one would not dream of anything as ghastly as drinking wine at less than £25 a bottle or anything less than an aged single malt. The minimum price won't make any difference.
These people have absolutely no idea of trying to have a few pleasures while living on a budget do they!

Mark Wadsworth said...

Yup, agreed, the whole thing is crazy, but the shit icing on the shit cake was Damian Green's claim about relative price of a can of strong lager and a bottle of water in a supermarket.

Steve Brown said...

I have been chased out of my favourite pub because some idiot decided that I could not smoke indoors. I am NOT prepared to stand outside and smoke, like some pariah.

So I nip down to the supermarket where the booze is cheaper and I now drink (and smoke) at home. I drink sensibly, I've never been involved in a fight or any other nastiness. My wife likes to drink with me (but only single malt whisky, no ice). And the result is what?

We no longer associate with the very many friends we had in the pub. The pub closed and has been re-developed into a Tesco Express.

Our social circle and those of our many friends has been obliterated.

Oh, my lady wife and I are both in our 60s and will not be able to afford the simple pleasures of our drinks at home once this stupid minimum pricing policy is enacted, as it will be despite the protestations of the vast majority of sensible drinkers.

Ivan D said...

Even Gordon Brown, arguably the least popular PM of recent years had the intelligence to walk away from this particular piece of public health idiocy. Not so Cameron. Still the BBC had a field day so it's an ill wind...

Dick_Puddlecote said...

You need not even go that far back. Michael Foot would have had a fit, and if Dennis Skinner backs it, we must be living in an alternate universe.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Of course, though that is arguably the LDs rather than Cameron being an idiot.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

It's a classic, isn't it? I tweeted it earlier. Someone surely *has* to capture it for posterity, it's one of the finniest things I've ever seen.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

DG also said this economically illiterate rubbish.

"fact of economics and life that if you put the price up, demand for it goes down".

Err, no it doesn't! Demand is still there, lack of supply just pushes the demand elsewhere or means that those demanding will pay more.

Ivan D said...

Or both because he surely is

Paul McO'Smith III said...

Sorry Steve, I really don't get it... and admittedly as a non smoker I may not... You were willing to give up that circle of friends and social life completely as a protest against not being able to smoke in pubs? No wonder the pub closed!

Curmudgeon said...

So if you weren't allowed to drink in pubs, you would still go there just as much?

Paul McO'Smith III said...

Wouldn't be a pub now, would it? If they banned alcohol in pubs, bars, restaurants, whatever... and I was only able to drink at home and had to choose between that and socialising in a milk bar with my friends, I'd be at the milk bar just as often as I'm currently at the pub.

Frank J said...

You don't smoke so you will not have an inkling. lets say you liked a 5 course dinner but had to 'nip outside' for the 3rd course. "No problems" they'd say "just nip outside for the 3rd course and you can come back in afterwards". You'd probably stop having 5 course meals, at least in the winter, simply because you no longer enjoyed them.

My wife and I tried the outside bit for a time. Forget it. From 3/4 times per week we're now down to once a month if that. And we don't stay as long. We see friends here and there but no longer at the pub. We're not the only ones, either, as much as they try to, desperately, deny this elephant in the room. Good tactic, though. If you don't like it, pretend it doesn't exist.

Curmudgeon said...

Would you really be in the milk bar or coffee shop as much as you were in the pub, drinking milkshakes or skinny lattes? Somehow I don't think so. More likely you'd be in a shebeen in a private house.

theprog said...

Steve is just one of many, many 1000's of smokers and non smokers who have given up on pubs (or at least visit far less regularly) because the buzz has gone. Though in his case, he is also aware that he's been had. Most don't, and continue to accept the lies. Nevertheless, it's a vicious downward spiral - as one or two stop visiting their local, others gradually join them (including non smokers). In my case, I continued to use our local because it had a lock in (and at that time I was a non smoker). When it changed hands and the ban was enforced the customer base changed. Mostly diners, loners and brain dead smokers (dutifully traipsing outside to suck on fag rather than to smoke it). Basically, the atmosphere had dissipated and I wasn't prepared to pay £3 a pint to 'socialise' in a dull environment. The point is many of our friends (including non smokers) also felt the same, even those who'd had no issues with the ban. In effect, even the most ardent supporters of the ban ultimately paid the price. As you said yourself 'no wonder pubs closed' - well, they are no longer fit for purpose. Only a fool would believe that banning something that over half of hard core regulars did in a pub would actually improve trade. Yet that was what most of the trade were conned into believing by ASH, the pub co's, CAMRA et al. Not the customers though, no one even bothered to seek their opinion. Well, the trade is certainly getting it now. Why should those who've been exiled ride to the rescue? Admittedly, things might not be too bad in town centre pubs but elsewhere the for sale/to let signs are all too common. Worse, some have changed use. For example, a pub in Retford that had live music a couple of times a week was thriving pre July 2007. In 2009 it was converted into a carpet warehouse - rock 'n roll (well no rock but plenty of fucking rolls....)

Alan Bates said...

Presumably, you have seen/read the piece in the Daily Mail today by Simon Heffer? He seems to have got it ...

Alan Bates said...

Sorry, OT but interesting: Feel free to delete if you wish ...

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