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

  • 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