Saturday 10 October 2009

Tax those disgusting common drinks

In today’s Times, Janice Turner accurately puts her finger on the rank snobbery that lies behind the Tories’ plans to tax “high-strength” beers and ciders:

So roll up for Grayling’s Great Deals: “Four-pack of super-strength lager UP £1.33!” “Super-strength cider — DOUBLE in price!” “Alcopops — large bottle — a soaraway £1.50 MORE!” Clearly he wanted to show command of detail, how much he’d stiff us on Special Brew to the exact threepennorth. But it conveyed what the caring Tories, with their Iain Duncan Smith understand-don’t- condemn social policy unit, can no longer say out loud: their visceral loathing of the British underclass.

It was only tramp juice, hoody hooch and slag sauce that he will ramp up, not the tipples of respectable folk, the warm ales and clanking cases from the Wine Society. To make that clear, Mr Grayling added an anxious caveat about protecting “those parts of the country with traditional producers”. It was designed, one supposes, to reassure the beardy brewers of Old Scrotum’s Particular, but seemed to suggest that it is perfectly fine to get sozzled on super-strength cider as long as you do so in Somerset.

Grayling will have to clarify how that distinction will be drawn. Maybe he should exempt the products of independent family brewers. Oh, hang on, Wells & Youngs brew Kestrel Super. I can foresee a lot of trouble over this issue, as whatever may be in the minds of the policymakers, it is going to be a struggle to come up with a watertight legal distinction between Carlsberg Special and Old Tom. And even the finest minds in the party would struggle to come up with a legislative formula that could discriminate between Buckfast and Harvey’s Bristol Cream, or Glen’s Vodka and The Famous Grouse. As has often been said, “legislate in haste, repent at leisure”.


  1. I wrote on this when he started talking about "alcopops" that there's really no way of classifying an "alcopop" without also including a mixed Pimms and lemonade.

    Or if they tax those too hard, pubs will just go back to rum and coke or gin and bitter lemon.

  2. Of course, as mentioned here, when the Australian government hiked the tax on alcopops, it led to a large rise in the consumption of spirits.

    Expect a large number of cheapo beers and ciders clustered at 0.1% under the threshold where the higher tax kicks in.

  3. The products they should be banning are those that have alcohol above 8% by volume or higher...oh...wait a minute...that means wine...oh...we should be banning things that are cheap...oh...wait a minute...that means proper cider...

    There's also a proposal to make poor people drink from plastic containers. Will wine be served in plastic glasses in the House of Commons bar?

    Brian, follower of Deornoth


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