With intriguing timing, the Government has just announced plans for a minimum unit cost for alcohol, in a move designed to curb binge drinking. Right now the supermarkets resemble laboratory mazes, in which you must negotiate towering displays of crates of beer and wine at special prices for festive parties (for which read, piss-ups); if you can get to the till without suckered by a discounted slab of Strongbow or persuading yourself that yes, Tia Maria really is a sophisticated seasonal cocktail base that needs to be purchased in large quantities, you are made of strong stuff. As opposed to being influenced by the strong stuff.
I'd say the idea of bumping up prices when everyone is stocking up is a bit of a non-starter. And since it's not going to happen before the Christmas rush, it's not worth Theresa May roaring into action for January either.
In January, almost everyone gives up anyway. (In fact, a booze-free month is currently being marketed on Twitter and elsewhere as “Dry January” – better than the Movember construct, I suppose, which would have meant Dranuary. Agh). Yes, after a solid month of office parties and family get-togethers, you could be doing buy-one, get-one-free on Pol Roger champagne and not get many takers, so liverish and pasty-faced is the nation.
Really, a bit of forethought would have helped. What should have happened instead of announcing a 10-week consultation on banning cheap booze when you can't move for the stuff, is for the Home Office to have eased us into it in the summer, when a sniff of the Pimm's cap combined with a shard of sunshine is enough to make us giddy.
But even that is not the point. The suggested minimum unit price suggested is 45p. I'd love to hear, at the end of the two-and-a-half months of pontificating (and observing Britain's drinkers at their most lavish and most remorseful), how they think that insanely low price is going to stop anyone binge drinking. Maybe, just maybe, a better starting place would be a £1 minimum. That might make a few heavy drinkers think twice about that ninth can of Stella. Anything less is foolish; there are mineral waters that cost more.
And of course the drinks industry is already cutting up rough about it. But since alcohol-related violent crimes are around one million a year, and 1.2 million hospital admissions are the result of accidents or conditions connected to booze, I don't think the industry is in any position to call the shots. OK, bad choice of word, but still...