You still hear plenty of deluded Pollyannas claiming that we really have nothing to fear from the anti-drink lobby in this country, and those who say we do are just scaremongering. But then along comes Mike Craik, Chief Constable of Northumbria and Association of Chief Police Officers national spokesman on licensing, and thus someone whose views cannot be easily dismissed, arguing in favour of an 80p minimum price per alcohol unit and a complete ban on all alcohol advertising.
Now, some people have said that a minimum price of 40 or 50p a unit wouldn’t be anything to worry about, but once the principle has been established it opens the door for the level to be constantly ratcheted up. 80p a unit would effectively double the price of mainstream drinks in the off-trade, thus making a huge hole in the budgets of ordinary households, and would start to impact on the lower end of the on-trade, for example the Sam Smiths’ estate, notorious for scenes of alcohol-related disorder. Holts Bitter in one of my local pubs is £1.84 a pint, which at 4.0% ABV is almost exactly 80p per unit.
One assumes he’d have to ban home brewing and personal imports of alcohol at the same time, otherwise legitimate domestic off-sales would decline to virtually zero.
A total advertising ban would, as I said the other day, lead to the drinks market stagnating and keep the door firmly shut against any new entrants. What’s more, it would effectively turn CAMRA into a proscribed organisation, as all its activities either revolve around the promotion of beer drinking or are funded by alcohol advertising. You can’t run a beer festival if you’re not allowed to tell anyone about it. Though you have to wonder whether they would realise what was happening until it was already too late.
Maybe this is a good argument for having elected chief police officers, as then Craik would have to submit his authoritarian, élitist views to the voters.