Raise booze prices to save lives



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

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

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

Guy Keleny

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own