Raise booze prices to save lives

 

Share

By nature I'm a libertarian – give me a set of rules and regulations and my gut instinct is to ignore or work round them. When the Government launched the daft "five-a-day" fruit and veg campaign, I mocked from the sidelines, and was vindicated when research revealed that the advice was ignored. We now eat less veg than before all that money was wasted. Our cannabis laws are ludicrous, and the sooner soft drugs are legalised the better. It would save precious hours of police time and thousands of pounds in pointless prosecutions. Given that, why do I support David Cameron's determination to enforce a minimum price for alcohol? I should side with those who say that a hike in prices will also hit sensible drinkers and penalise those who can't afford it.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies reckons a minimum pricing of 45p a unit will cost an average couple up to £100 a year. On the other side of the fence, the medical profession is campaigning for the change, claiming it will cut hospital admissions by 24,000 and save 700 lives every year. I'm all for free choice, and the right to live your life with the minimum of governmental intervention, but when it comes to booze, a large number of us lack the "sensible" gene. When Labour brought in extended licensing hours and claimed that Continental-style drinking would reduce bingeing, how wrong it was. When supermarkets used cheap booze (at below cost price) as key weapons in their price wars, we lapped it up. Now people preload on booze at home before they go out. I want alcohol taken out of supermarkets and sold only in off-licences, as in the days when last orders were called at 10.30pm and the nation drank a fraction of what it does today. The inane desire of successive governments to protect our "human rights" means that all they have done is pander to our weaknesses, resulting in massive health bills and A&E departments like battlefields.

Why are our politicians so in thrall to supermarket chains? Our health must be paramount. We can educate kids on how to drink sensibly (and the signs are that a younger generation is starting to drink less). But right now, we have a national crisis, requiring draconian measures. The alternative is that heavy drinkers are blood-tested every week and made to pay more for healthcare. The booze industry will fight these proposals all the way through to the European Court of Justice, but it is concerned only with profit, not our livers.

Hunt the letters

Marsha Hunt, who starred in the London production of Hair, had an affair with Mick Jagger that ended in 1970. It produced a beautiful daughter Karis, whose privacy Marsha has always fiercely protected.

Marsha was quite a character; my first husband met her in San Francisco in the Sixties, and when she arrived in the UK she briefly stayed with his parents – the hot pants and afro caused quite a stir in sedate Blackheath. She went on to share a flat with another friend, and everyone was sworn to secrecy over the paternity of her child.

I'm sad she's decided to sell 10 of the dozens of letters from Jagger containing song lyrics and declarations of love. Sotheby's reckons it could fetch up to £100,000. Marsha says they are culturally important– but they can't be published as the copyright remains with the writer. Marsha says she needs the money. But Jagger, who set up a trust fund for Karis, must feel his privacy has been violated. I actually feel sorry for poor old Mick.

Force feeding

Alan Titchmarsh says that the Tories not longer represent country-dwellers. It's true that Planning Minister Nick Boles seems obscenely keen to concrete over our precious green belt and enable homeowners to enlarge their houses without the need for planning permission – which will mean the loss of garden habitats for birds and wildlife, not to mention a proliferation of ugly extensions.

Where I part company with Alan, though, is over his insistence that the countryside plays a vital role in growing our food. He says: "We have to look after horticulture: growing things. This is how we feed ourselves."

Piffle. Go to any supermarket and the vast majority of our food is imported, because we won't pay for British food costs and refuse to eat seasonally, We are addicted to choice and sod the air miles. To feed our ridiculous desire for summer crops in winter, the Isle of Thanet in Kent is now covered by huge greenhouses, each one the size of 10 football pitches, where cute little tomatoes, peppers and courgettes are grown, fed nutrients robotically. Huge swathes of the UK are hidden by repulsive polytunnels protecting salad crops and soft fruit.

Farmers keep beef cattle and dairy herds indoors for most of the year, in barns that don't require planning permission and are as vast as aircraft hangers. Sadly, most food production is nothing to do with aesthetically pleasing green fields and everything to do with low cost and volume.

Boring Bennett

Watching Alan Bennett's new play People at the National Theatre is a bit like listening to Hampstead talking to Barnes. The elderly middle-class audience is so utterly uncritical, so determined to love the production (ie anything by Alan B), that they laugh in the wrong places and exude a self-satisfied complacency that renders the whole exercise toothless and cosy.

The play sends up the National Trust, with the wonderful Frances de la Tour playing Dorothy, a penniless aristo, former model and good-time girl, reduced to renting out her pile for a porn movie. Can National Treasures still surprise? Hockney's huge show at the Royal Academy proved he can, but Bennett is resting on his laurels.

Carla's gaffe

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy boasts in the latest French Vogue: "I'm not an active feminist.... I'm bourgeois. I love family life, I love doing the same thing every day."

Born into a wealthy Italian family, Carla was a successful model, who embarked on a series of affairs with high-profile men (some of whom were married at the time), including Mick Jagger. The former first lady's singing career has been an embarrassment (tiny voice, giant ego). Would record companies continue to take her seriously if she hadn't been married to a president?

On Twitter, one activist ranted, "75,000 adult women raped in France per year are sufficient to convince me that my generation needs feminism." In a damage-limitation exercise, Carla has given an interview to Elle's French website, waffling about her charity work, but hostile comments continue to flood in. Female politicians have weighed in too, and the minister for women's rights has scorned Carla, who claims her words were "clumsy" and she expressed her thoughts "poorly". But isn't this a woman who writes her own lyrics?

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Analyst - Bristol

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Pakistani volunteers carry a student injured in the shootout at a school under attack by Taliban gunmen, at a local hospital in Peshawar  

The Only Way is Ethics: The paper’s readers and users of our website want different things

Will Gore
 

Labour's Simon Danczuk is flirting with Nigel Farage, but will he answer his prayers and defect?

Matthew Norman
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick