Thursday, 20 August 2009

Old Tom to be castrated?

The Tories’ plans to triple duty on “high-strength” beers and ciders are ill-considered, indiscriminate and unlikely to achieve their stated objectives. They may put people off drinking the likes of Special Brew and Diamond White, but they will also impact on high-quality strong ales such as Robinson’s Old Tom, recently voted world’s best ale, Belgian imports such as Chimay and Duvel, and the products of independent cidermakers. These products are consumed responsibly by discerning drinkers and already are often relatively expensive in terms of price per alcohol unit.

Yet again beer and cider are being unfairly singled out when wines and spirits are equally to blame for our supposed alcohol problems.

The vast majority of the alcohol-fuelled disorder we see on our streets results from people consuming normal-strength drinks. The super-strength products are overwhelmingly drunk at home and scarcely feature in pubs.

And you can bet your life that the promise to reduce duty on “low-strength” products will only apply to the sub-3% pisswater that nobody wants to drink, and not to everyday quaffing beers in the 3-4% range.

It is also inevitable that if there is a sudden jump in duty levels at a particular strength level, numerous products will cluster just below that level, thus distorting the market.

The plan is a thoroughly bad idea which is likely to cost the Tories many votes from people who would often see themselves as their natural supporters. More proof, if it were needed, that defending the interests of responsible drinkers is not a straightforward party political issue.


  1. Spesh is not drunk at home. It is drunk by tramps in the town center, harrasing shoppers for money and pissing in the street.

    As for tax hikes affecting the drinkers of posh beer, they already like the fact it's pricey. They will like it even more if it is pricier.

    As for costing the tories a vote, it gets my vote.

  2. It's just what you'd expect from MPs whose own alcohol and food were subsidised with £6.1 million pounds of taxpayers' money last year.

  3. Yes, super lagers are popular with tramps, but the fact that they feature on the shelves of Tesco, Sainsbury's etc suggests that their core market is actually older male heavy drinkers who drink at home. In fact in one of the pubs I visit, there are a couple of perfectly respectable regulars where the guy drinks pints of bitter and his wife drinks half-pint bottles of Special Brew.

    The lads causing trouble in town centres will have been drinking large quantities of Stella or similar, which is not what the Tories are targeting.

  4. As for costing the tories a vote, it gets my vote.


  5. Alcoholic drinks, apart from cider, are taxed on the basis of the actual alcohol content. A 5% beer is taxed at twice the rate of a 2.5% beer. I can't think of a better system.

    And there was part of me thinking about voting Tory next time too.

  6. No doubt Labour will now nick this particular policy and decide to go one further by quadrupling the tax on "strong" beers and ciders and lower the threshold to 4.5%.

  7. This seems very silly. Has David Cameron formulated policy after one night out with the police? It might have been more useful if he had actually looked into the situation before coming out with this nonsense. The Conservatives have never been a friend of beer drinkers, anyway.

  8. "The Conservatives have never been a friend of beer drinkers, anyway."

    Historically, this is not the case. For example,

    (a) in the 1900s, they successfully campaigned against Liberal proposals for local option on prohibition
    (b) in 1959, they cut beer duty for about the only occasion in the post-war era
    (c) in 1960, they introduced local referendums on Sunday closing in Wales, which rapidly turned most areas "wet". They finally did away with Sunday closing in the 1990s.
    (d) in 1963, they legalised home brewing
    (e) in the 1980s, they allowed pubs to open all day

    However, they seem intent on shedding this reputation nowadays.


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