Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Unlikely champion

I was astonished to read that, as part of his campaign for the Labour leadership, David Miliband had decided to pose as the defender of pubs. Now Miliband strikes me as the kind of patronising, upper-middle-class Hampstead socialist who actually finds the working classes in the flesh deeply distasteful, and who has never had a good session in a pub in his life. And it is a bit rich coming from someone who previously served in a government that had spent thirteen years doing its best to do down the pub trade, and all too often seemed to see pubs as a toxic health hazard rather than a valuable community resource.

While there may be issues with the pub company tie and planning law, the fundamental problem with the pub trade today is not one of structure but of lack of demand. If demand was strong, nobody would be too concerned about the tie and very few would be trying to get a change of use for pubs. Pubs are struggling and closing because not enough people want to go to them. Some of that is due to social trends, but much stems from specific government actions.

The way I see it, any government with any interest in standing up for the pub trade should do the following:
  1. Amend the smoking ban to allow for separate indoor smoking areas if licensees wish
  2. Undertake not to cut the drink-driving limit
  3. Abandon the alcohol duty escalator
  4. Stop all this hysterical lying anti-drink propaganda that claims three pints in a session is a binge and eleven pints a week makes you a hazardous drinker
And then, apart from that, leave pubs alone. No new laws, no new initiatives, no new restrictions, no new red tape.

And would Miliband do any of that? If not, his posture as a champion of pubs is hypocrisy of the most contemptible kind. I must say I’m inclined to agree with Mr Eugenides’ blunt assessment here.


  1. I wouldn't argue with any of that Curmudgeon but I realy don't see any of the parties having that kind of common sense. If any of the ministers actually frequented a pub on occasion they may have some understanding of the effects of their policies.


  2. "I really don't see any of the parties having that kind of common sense"

    Indeed - there have been one or two mildly encouraging noises from the new government but nothing to suggest it will make any difference for pubs and drinkers. In fact, as I have said, some of their thoughts on licensing will make matters even worse.

  3. Labour,Conservative,Liberal,it
    doesn't matter,representative
    democracy is dead and buried ,
    nobody listens untill they get
    something to catch their attention,
    something lively of course.

    Ex floating voter

  4. I’m not a fan of David Milliband and my vote will not be cast in his direction when I vote in September. I think that whichever party/ies are in power the best you can hope for is “No new laws, no new initiatives, no new restrictions”.
    We get the politicians that we deserve and that ain’t likely to change unless we have mass party membership. Now I know the cynical will pooh pooh that and say that it is impossible to change things but if there was enough groundswell things could change. Unfortunately the majority would rather sit on their spotty fat arses watching soap and sport on the goggle box whilst leaving politics to the Daily Mail and the Sun.

  5. It's the all powerfull Quango's Civil service and fake charities feeding off the demise of the pub which they have orchestrated to do just that.
    Cut public money to the prohibitionists ,if they want to do it, they should pay for it themselves.

  6. Whilst the tie may not be the biggest threat to pubs, it has to be a factor. The resulting high cost supply chain that many pub companies operate reflects in higher pub prices.

    Governments can and do operate to ensure effective competition within markets.

    Why shouldn't a politician express his views on the pub market?

  7. A politician is of course entitled to express his views on the pub market. But he isn't just any politician: he was also a senior minister in the Labour government. I don't remember him speaking on behalf of pubs then when he was in a much stronger position to influence government policy on pubs.

    When ex-ministers do this kind of thing after losing power, you can't blame people for suspecting that it's populism rather than conviction.


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