We went to see the Eagles at the O2 in Greenwich on Friday. That old brilliance was all there, undiminished. Almost 20,000 sang along to “Desperado” and “Witchy Woman”. Wonderful, except for one thing – the men and women who steadily (or rather, unsteadily) got drunk over the three hours of the concert.
We were in the cheaper seats high up, which meant climbing up a number of steep steps. Over and over again, punters went down to the bar, slipping and stumbling, and came back up with several glasses of sloshing amber liquid.
A dad and his three grown-up sons near us got so smashed that they didn’t make it up again to watch the second, even better, half. Meanwhile, my trousers and face got splashed with lager.
Those who run this entertainment hub seemingly do nothing to stop the drunks from getting drunker. Why would they? Think of how much they must make.
In fact, lovely young vendors are employed to carry beer and glasses and offer them with bright smiles. Who cleans up the vomit and spills? Workers, who must, I imagine be paid a minimum wage.
People parted with good money to hear the Eagles play. It was a night to remember, except thousands won’t remember it. Why do so many men and women feel the only way to have fun is to get drunk? Yes, I do like a glass of wine, but will never pass this particular test of Britishness.
The World Cup seems to be as much about swallowing gallons of drink as it is about football. Our NHS is phenomenal. In spite of increasing pressures and endless griping, it was, last week, declared the best health service in the world by a Washington-based foundation. But the inebriated may well bring down this treasured institution.
A new alarm was raised at the weekend about the numbers of self-referrals to A&E departments. In the week that included the start of the football World Cup and England’s first game against Italy, more people sought emergency treatment than at any point since records began. Doctors predicted the rise – they know all too well how the bad habits of this nation result in health catastrophes.
In pictures: Top 10 world's heaviest drinking countries
In pictures: Top 10 world's heaviest drinking countries
1/10 1. Belarus
(The figures represent the average amount of pure alcohol consumed per capita in each country between 2008 and 2010)
2/10 2. Republic of Moldova
3/10 3. Lithuania
4/10 4. Russian Federation
5/10 5. Romania
6/10 6. Ukraine
7/10 7. Andorra
8/10 8. Hungary
9/10 9. Czech Republic and Slovakia
10/10 10. Portugal
More dire news: cases of liver cancer have increased dramatically in England. Between 2003 and 2012, rates went up 70 per cent for men and 60 per cent for women. Scientific studies suggest a link between this cancer and high alcohol intake. Most calamitous of all are the figures released last week that show the number of diagnosed cases of foetal alcohol syndrome – that is, newborns with hooch already coursing through their small veins – has tripled in the past 15 years. The syndrome can leave children mentally impaired. The fear is that many more of these babies go undiagnosed and are condemned for life.
Kids are getting into the alcohol habit younger and younger; girls and women now think it is their feminist right to get as plastered as chaps; secret drinking is growing among Muslims and other immigrant communities; the middle classes are addicted to wine and believe that this makes them sophisticated and classy; and dangerous levels of consumption are evident among uni students, for whom drunkenness is now almost a qualification for higher education.
University heads, to my knowledge, have done sod all to address what has become that sector’s big shame. Perhaps like some trendy, misguided parents they think it’s cool for kids to be hammered – just a fun rite of passage.
The Labour government under Tony Blair thought it was smart to let pubs and bars stay open all hours. They are as guilty of encouraging and facilitating a dangerous habit as were cigarette manufacturers in previous decades. In spite of campaigning by doctors, the Tories have refused to introduce minimum prices for wine, beer and lager. The drinks industry has politicians as well as academics in its large pockets.
Freedom and choice are the only national imperatives, it seems, even when they lead to brain-damaged babies, rape, collapse in social and health services, domestic and street violence and personal annihilation (several alcoholics in my family wrecked themselves and their loved ones).
If only some hot-shot lawyers would launch a class-action case against those responsible for the rising alcoholism that is destroying lives and this nation’s future. Yes, that means you Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and your cabinet. Same goes for the gang of public schoolboys running the country today. They have failed to protect the people they govern from a danger that is far worse than drugs, more menacing even than terrorism, because it afflicts the majority.
Alcoholism is a global problem, but there is no other country that can match our bad record. Welcome to the top binge-drinking nation in the world, the real cup winners. We may not win matches, but Britain is top when it comes to guzzling booze. Next round?
So a threat to hit me is no big deal?
On Thursday I was on Channel 4 News with The Sunday Times columnist Rod Liddle, one of those greying, sallow, grumpy men who blame the left and migrants for ruining the country as it once was. Sure, it was easier for such blokes when Britain was white, women were pliant and the working classes went home from pubs to their tight communities. Unsurprisingly, we disagreed strongly but not obnoxiously.
Watching this was the MP Michael Fabricant, better known for his strange hair than any political distinction.
Infuriated by me (and not Liddle), he tweeted that if he was ever on with me he’d punch me “in the throat” and re-tweeted someone who wanted me deported. Fabricant’s apologies were forced and meaningless. Way back, when a Tory councillor sent a tweet saying he’d like me to be stoned to death, the party threw him out. This time Cameron is taking no further action against the Fabricant.
So now an urge to violently attack a senior female Asian journalist, openly expressed, is no big deal. I’ve had missives from outraged voters of all backgrounds.
Wake up, Mr Cameron. New data analysis by Trevor Phillips – the former chair of the Equalities Commission – and Richard Webber makes grim reading for the party. Ethnic minorities don’t trust the Conservatives.
Lord Ashcroft has warned that the “ethnic” vote will determine results in key marginals and the policing minister Damien Green is appalled that Tories still don’t get the message.
After the Fabricant fiasco, many more will give up on this lot. Good. They’ve shown their true colours, again.