Thursday, 23 June 2011

Stubbing out your own folk

There has been plenty of anecdotal evidence that the smoking ban has hit working-class communities hardest, as they are more likely to have the kind of traditional wet-led pubs that it has damaged most, and working-class people are more likely to be smokers. It is ironic that the Labour Party who brought it in have hurt their own supporters more than any others.

For example, as I reported here a couple of years ago:

Brian Iddon, MP for Bolton South East, said: “I’m getting complaints from our core Labour vote that they feel the Labour Government is just hitting them left, right and centre. They are heavily bruised at the moment.”

Dr Iddon cited the ban on smoking in public places and rising alcohol and food prices as other causes of anger.
This is confirmed by a new report from the Save Our Pubs and Clubs Campaign entitled The British Smoking Bans: Stubbing out the urban pubs:
Traditional inner city pubs have suffered the most since the introduction of smoking bans in Scotland, England and Wales, a new report has found.

Researchers also found that the areas with the greatest levels of closure have been in Labour-held constituencies with an average of almost eleven pubs per Labour constituency, compared to 9.9 pubs per Liberal Democrat constituency and 7.6 pubs per Conservative constituency.

Of the ten hardest hit constituencies seven are Labour held, two Liberal Democrat, and just one (Cities of London and Westminster) Conservative.

The data show large numbers of traditional drink-led urban pubs shutting down. These are in areas with traditionally quite high levels of smoking so it would appear that regulars who used to enjoy a pint and a cigarette with friends have decided to stay at home instead.
But of course the Labour Party is now increasingly dominated by an arrogant, patronising metropolitan élite that sees the working classes as no more than voting fodder who need to be told how to live their lives. It may have been the party of the people once, but it certainly isn’t any more.

(h/t to Simon Clark at Taking Liberties)


  1. Just reading my local rag about yet another pub closing. The landlord has put in the window "Due to illness and the tied beer system we have been forced to close'.
    No takers on a pub dropped from £170,000 to £80,000.
    Being a thicky I had to check on what the tied beer system was and still don't really understand it. Will the pubs owners really let a pub die rather than let them thrive on selling other beer or am I missing something?

  2. Typically a pub company would rent a pub out to a tenant at something less than the market rate, but then sell beer to him at a higher price than he might be able to get it on the open market. Thus the pub company makes a profit on beer sales as well as from rent, and so if the tenant bought his beer from other sources they would lose out. It's widely thought that pub companies adopt hard-nosed, short-term business practices that militate against a pub's long-term viability. Of course, if the pub does close they will then get the proceeds for selling it off.

  3. There has been plenty of anecdotal evidence that the smoking ban has hit working-class communities hardest, as they are more likely to have the kind of traditional wet-led pubs that it has damaged most, and working-class people are more likely to be smokers.

    They also flooded the UK employment market with low earners. In extremis, I suppose anyone could learn to deal with the smoking ban as an extreme nuisance - I fly long haul for work and since 1996 it's been hell. Losing your livelihood outright to cheap competition is something else again.

    The Labour voters have only themselves to blame. Those Conservatives who smoke saw it coming from their own smug, self-satisfied blue-moon pub frequenters whom they count as friends and family.

    I was an outcast for enjoying a friendly pint with hoi polloi in a pub - 'Eew - it smells'. Now it doesn't (or it doesn't smell of smoke, at least) they still don't go.

  4. Thanks for the info PC. Looks like many more pubs will fail with the Vulcan death grip combination of smoking ban, tied beer and health facists.

  5. It's why I went over to UKIP which is becoming more the party of the people than metropolitan Nulabour could ever be. That party is fighting for the same core vote as the LibDems and the Tories.

    The Tories won the GE narrowly with just 10 million votes. Imagone what kind of landslide they could get with support from the 12 - 15 million smokers in this country who currently feel politically unrepresented by the main three parties.

  6. ... but for clarification there was so much wrong with Blair's NuParty it has never had my vote which didn't go elsewhere until July 2007.

    I wanted to start voting Tory in revenge for the smoking ban but the Tories had nothing to offer on that issue as many new UKIP voters also realised after the introduction of the smoking ban.

  7. Anonymous, I'm no expert in tied v. free houses but in my own village the free house sells Tetleys at £2.60 and the Tied house sells it at £3.15. I'm told the free house makes more money on each pint than the tied house!
    At a guess the brewery is charging the tied house around £45 extra for the privilege(?)of being tied up.

  8. Surely the main reason that more pubs are closing in working class areas than elsewhere is that working class people cannot afford to pay the extortionate prices charged in so many pubs. The smoking ban doesn't help, but I suggest it's not the main factor contributing to decreasing pub use.

  9. I've never sought to put forward the smoking ban as a monocausal explanation for pub closures, and undoubtedly the recession and the squeeze on household incomes is a factor, as is depopulation of inner-urban areas and change in ethnic mix.

    However, we have seen a rate of pub closures that is completely unprecedented in any previous recession, and it peaked in 2009 before the economic squeeze really started to bite.

    Also, I don't believe that the relative economics of pubs vs off-trade are that different now from what they were prior to July 2007.

  10. Pub prices have continued to rise in real terms for several years whereas supermarket prices have tended to fall in real terms. As the cost of pub drinking becomes ever more expensive you would expect this to lead to an increase in the numbers choosing to stop drinking in pubs and so to an increase in pub closures.
    Sure the smoking ban has damaged the pub trade; but the silly numbers displayed in the panel (presumably) supplied by the Freedom to Choose organisation, under the heading "Counting the Cost of the Smoking Ban" are just bollocks. Incidentally, are these people the same ones who quoted a figure for pub closures in Greater London which was about twice the true figure?
    A compromise which allows smokers some Lebensraum in pubs is the answer; but if the idiocies of the anti-smoking extremists are countered by similarly ridiculous claims by pro-smoking groups then such a compromise will be impossible.

  11. The pub closure ticker doesn't imply causation. All it's saying is that x number of pubs have closed since the smoking ban came in.

    Before the ban, many people were saying it would open up a new golden age for pubs, with hordes of non-smokers who had previously been deterred by the smoky atmosphere battering down their doors. Now that really happened, didn't it?

    The smoking ban did not "succeed" in reinvigorating the pub trade.

  12. Re: "Pubs closed since July 2007" ticker and your last comment.

    If the wretched thing isn't claiming that the smoking ban hasn't caused all these closures, why choose the July 2007 date? And if the expression "Counting the cost of the smoking ban" doesn't imply that the closures have resulted from the smoking ban then it would be interesting to know what it does imply.
    I recently saw a "report" by The Save the Pubs and Clubs" campaign which stated that 700 pubs in London had closed since 1/7/07. One example - in the Greenwich and Woolwich Parliamentary Constituency there were apparently 26 closures. True figure? 12 closures. In the 3.5 year period prior to the smoking ban, there were 15 closures and in the 8 year period Jan 1995 to Dec 2002 there were 21 closures. Perhaps they were closed in anticipation of the smoking ban.
    For you include that ticker is intellectually dishonest; to claim that it doesn't imply causality goes way beyond that.


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