We've got bigger problems than the price of booze

And the Government should be wary of plans that will heap more financial misery on the beleaguered bottom

Share
Related Topics

I have been thinking quite a lot about drinking recently. Yesterday, as the Home Office laid out its plans to deal with problem drinkers by outlawing cheap booze, I was surveying the shelves of my local Co-op and I noticed that many of the special offers related to alcohol.

And they were a particular kind of inducement: buy more, drink more, save money. I was encouraged to buy eight cans of Guinness, as it was so much more cost-effective than buying a four-pack. I simply thought this made economic sense, and I didn't believe the Co-op and I were in collusion to create a menace to society. Because there's simply no issue here. I am a responsible drinker. Of course I am. I'm middle class and I don't need the State to protect me from myself. It's everyone else who's the problem.

David Cameron is extremely concerned about the cost to society of excess alcohol consumption, so much so that he is prepared to field accusations of nanny-statism by proposing a minimum unit price of 45p for alcoholic drinks in order to modify people's behaviour. Such a move, counter-intuitive for a Conservative-led government, is almost certainly against EU competition law, but Mr Cameron appears to determined to press ahead, even in the face of warnings from his Chancellor that revenues for alcohol duty will be hit.

I've never had a problem with the nanny state – it's where we turn in times of floods and pestilence, and in any case, I want to know that someone's looking out for me – but I can't really see the value of these measures. Andrew Lansley, a former health secretary, has said that a minimum pricing law would disproportionately affect responsible drinkers in low-income households. These are not natural Conservative voters, but even so, the Government must be wary of heaping more financial misery on the beleaguered bottom.

As for the squeezed middle, there is the possibility that the deal in which supermarkets offer a complete dinner, plus a bottle of wine, for a tenner could be banned. How's that going to prevent anti-social behaviour?

The PM seems convinced by medical research that suggests a minimum price would prevent 98,000 hospital admissions a year. I don't know how they reach these figures, and it would be hard to prove that this is a spurious assertion, but surely it would be better to tackle the root causes of alcoholism than by adopting a headline-grabbing policy that doesn't get to the heart of the issue.

In the end, it comes down to whether you believe alcohol abuse is responsible for social problems or if dislocation in society is a cause of alcohol abuse.

Tackling social exclusion, while providing proper support for those who have become afflicted by alcoholism, requires a more thought-out strategy, more hard work, and less gesture politics.

React Now

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

Software Developer - Newcastle - £30,000 - £37,000 + benefits

£30000 - £37000 per annum + attractive benefits: Ashdown Group: .NET Developer...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Digital Project Manager/BA

£300 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: An experienced Digital/Ecommerc...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The truth about kids on holiday

Rosie Millard
 

August catch-up: Waiting on the telephone, tribute to Norm and my Desert Island Discs

John Rentoul
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home