Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Granny, what big eyes you’ve got

I see our old friend Don Shenker has been at it again, praising pubs for “improving community life”.

It’s hard to top what I wrote on the subject a couple of years ago:

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With the pub trade under so much pressure nowadays, you could be forgiven for thinking that pubs would welcome any friend they could get. So step forward Don Shenker, chief executive of anti-drink pressure group and fake charity Alcohol Concern. He says he wants to work alongside CAMRA to look at ways of helping well-run pubs to survive. Unbelievably, he says Alcohol Concern is “not an anti-pub organisation. What we are in favour of is responsible drinking, retailing and selling of alcohol.”

He went on to say “We share the concern around the high degree of pub closures in the country and want to see protection for pubs that are well run. I really want to support the community pubs. It’s important to support a pub where alcohol is being regulated; the problem with drinking at home is it isn’t regulated.”

This is all a bit rich coming from an organisation that has opposed every liberalisation of licensing laws over the past three decades, championed every piece of anti-drink and anti-pub legislation going and consistently campaigned for higher alcohol taxes and prices and a drastic reduction in overall alcohol consumption. You have to wonder whether he choked on his sarsaparilla as he said this.

Even in the best-run community pub, you will routinely see people drinking enough alcohol to qualify as a “binge” in the government’s description, some of whom will end up getting boisterous, or even a bit “worse for wear”. It is hard to see how this conforms to Shenker’s view of “responsible retailing”. And if every customer stuck to Alcohol Concern’s recommended maximum of a pint and a half per sitting it is difficult to imagine many pubs staying in business.

Of course, the real nature of his agenda was exposed when he went on urge pubs to offer smaller servings of drinks, and to lower the alcohol content of drinks so people can consume the same volume but take less alcohol. I'm sure people will be flocking down to the Dog & Duck to drink thimblefuls of watered-down beer.

In reality, Shenker loathes pubs and all they stand for with every fabric of his being. He would like to see as many as possible closed down and the few that remained turned into anodyne, emasculated eating houses. Anyone seriously concerned about the future of pubs should avoid at all costs being seduced by his weasel words.

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And it’s disappointing to see Julian Grocock of SIBA thinking that some “common ground” can be found with Alcohol Concern. Ultimately, there is no appeasing these people, no accommodation that can be reached. If you sit down to dine with the wolf, however nice his smile might be, you will eventually find yourself on the menu.


  1. Mudge, you're being fat too judgemental. I'm sure they can find common ground. After all, the Big Tobacco companies worked hard to find common ground with ASH and that worked swimmingly. Oh! Wait.....

  2. As SIBA have become a corporate member of Alcohol Concern it sounds more like a case of turkeys voting for christmas.

  3. "SIBA have become a corporate member of Alcohol Concern"

    Jeez, that is beyond belief. It's like turkeys queueing up at the slaughterhouse door brandishing five pound notes.

  4. I have just posted this on the Morning Advertiser.

    From Dave Atherton

    "I think it was Sir Humphrey in Yes Prime Minister who said "first you have to stand behind someone, before you can stab them in the back."

    Next month Don and his chums will be at the "Tobacco and alcohol conference: Learning from each other Alcohol Concern Cymru is delighted to announce we will be holding a conference in partnership with ASH Wales on 12 and 13 October 2011, looking at the related issues of alcohol and tobacco use."

    The conference is sponsored by Pfizer and Novartis and features lots of taxpayer funded neo prohibitionists. One of the attendees is Professor Linda Bauld who asserts that

    "the smoking ban didn't hurt pubs."

    The sad fact is that Alcohol Concern and ASH have the ears of ministers who revel in the 'something must be done' model. While us smokers and drinkers opinion's are bolt on extras to the debate to produce a very thin veneer of democracy.

    Minimum pricing of alcohol will be no panacea as people will return to the continental Booze Cruises, Tesco and Oddbins both closed down their Calais shops 2-3 years ago, home brewed beer costs 30p a pint and like 24% of the tobacco trade smuggling may become widespread. In Sweden and Norway alcohol is only available via state owned shops and the price is artificially raised. Public drunkenness is rife, 'home brew' spirit production extensive and dangerous, upwards of 100 Swedes die every year from poisoning.

    Frankly it seems the fox has been allowed into the chicken coop.

  5. Just had a look at these people's accounts on their website. Most of their income comes from grants from, guess who, you and me. Have a look at this:
    Department of Health Annual Grant 400,000
    Hub Grant 95,000
    HEI Grant 47,000
    SMART Recovery Grant 50,000
    AERC 5,000
    Big Lottery Fund 142,084
    Tudor Trust 50,000
    Welsh Assembly Government 250,000
    Comic Relief 27,305
    John Paul Getty Foundation 20,000

    OK, the Getty Foundation can give its money to who it wants (In fact the money they donated was passed on in full to Drugscope, apparently) but all the rest seems to be coming from taxation or charitable giving where the donors have no idea where their money is going. Did your local pub do something for Comic Relief? Did you know they were donating to the prohibitionists? Ever buy a lottery ticket or got a syndicate in your pub? See where your money's going.
    The balance of AC's income comes from donations of some £22,000, membership fees of £14,000-odd and "consultancy and training" fees of £450,000-odd. The accounts don't say who paid these fees but I bet it was mostly public sector bodies or other shit-for-brains "charitable" organisations.
    Oh, and the accounts also show that one employee was paid between £70-£80K in the last accounting period. That'll be our old mate Don then.

  6. One can only assume that SIBA have a death wish. How else to explain sleeping with the enemy? As for Comic Relief, their donations to organisation such as AC lie beyond their remit, and is the reason I don't put my hard earned pennies in their oily hands.

  7. I've felt for some time now that Alcohol Concern is not a real charity but rather a quango in all but name. I dislike the dishonesty of a government being lobbied by a so-called charity and paying for the privilege. Just incorporate AC into the Department of Health and stop insulting our intelligence with this pretence of separation.


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