Well, pretty much everything that can be said about yesterday’s Budget has already been said, so there’s very little I can add.
It seems to have prompted Mike Benner of CAMRA into an uncharacteristic display of fighting spirit. But I was struck by his comment that “CAMRA is totally at a loss in understanding how a Government that recognises the community value of pubs can impose such consistently draconian beer duty increases” Umm, Mike, why does that come as any surprise to you?
While Labour may claim to support “community pubs”, those are self-evidently the kind of pubs in which nobody is allowed to smoke, where two musicians cannot play live together, to which nobody must drive and have a couple of pints, where nobody must ever consume four pints at a sitting, and where the world will come to an end if a 17-year-old is served with an alcoholic drink. In fact, not real pubs at all.
As I’ve commented before, far from regarding pubs as a valuable community resource, the current government seems to see them as a kind of health hazard. It was only too typical when, last year, Alan Campbell, the minister in charge of licensing, admitted he couldn’t remember the last time he had been in a pub.
It has also been interesting to see today that the one issue from the Budget that has got people excited is the 10% plus inflation rise in cider duty. Indeed there was a phone-in this morning on Radio Five Live devoted to it. Obviously Darling is well aware there are few Labour MPs in the West Country, and will be even fewer come May 7th. There may be a case for bringing the duty on mass-market ciders closer to that on beer, but this is an indiscriminate across-the-board increase that gives no recognition to small producers and remains a flat rate that takes no account of alcoholic strength.