How many impaired children will it take until Britain admits to its alcohol problem?

We're the best when it comes to guzzling booze, and now we're paying the price for it

Share

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.

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.

READ MORE:
Someone should tell Lady Gaga that porno-chic is out
Don't blame foreign players for England's demise at the World Cup
Why did Michael Fabricant threaten to punch me?

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.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Our exclusive client in St Albans Hertfords...

Tradewind Recruitment: KS2 Primary Teachers

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Key Stage 2 Teachers needed in Hertfordshir...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ACCA/CIMA - St Albans, Hertfordshire

£55000 - £58000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A truly exciting opportunity has ari...

Ashdown Group: Credit Controller - London, Old Street

£25000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Credit Controller - Londo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million  

The Archers: how many sensational plot twists can it get away with?

Simon Kelner
 

Daily catch-up: winter crisis for the NHS – Miliband and Burnham don’t know how to fix it

John Rentoul
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness