Parties get in a froth over a pint

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Indy Politics
Will they stop at nothing? VAT on food, rising fuel prices and the costs of the Social Chapter are one thing, but the British pint is quite another. Now even the warm beer eulogised by John Major in his "spinsters- on-bicycles" speech has become grist to the electoral mill.

More than 100 years after buying votes with beer became illegal, both parties appeared to be indulging in rather similar tactics yesterday.

While Labour campaigned to convince people that a pint of beer would be bigger under a Blair government, the Tories launched a two-pronged initiative. A vote for Labour would be a vote for a 10-pence-a-pint price hike, they claimed, while in a rose-tinted Conservative future all pubs would be able to sell more beer.

Nigel Griffiths, Labour's consumer affairs spokesman, led the first volley with a cry of: "You can't trust the Tories with our beer!" The Government had promised no more short measures, he said, but nothing had been done. What drinkers needed was bigger glasses and an end to slops.

Consumers don't want to listen to broken promises any more - they just want a fairer deal, he finished plaintively.

The Conservative Central Office rapid rebuttal machine was humming within minutes. No less a figure than the party's vice-chairman, Charles Hendry, was drafted in to mastermind its Beer Wars offensive.

Labour's plans for a minimum wage would put 10p on a pint, he said. Drinkers up and down the country would find that hard to swallow, he added, getting into his swing.

His statement followed hot on the heels of news that the Government was to change the rules to allow landlords to sell more types of beer. A 1989 order allowing tied houses to sell a guest cask-conditioned draft beer is to be extended both to bottles and to widget-cans, thereby raising a cheer from saloon bars across the land.

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