There are, of course, a number of fairly obvious reasons for the rise: we are, after all, as a nation, now in serious training for this 24-hour business. We are, too, a competitive people with a long history of a taste for the stuff. The Romans noticed our propensity for a bit of a binge, and so it has continued, playing a vital role in our island story, from drowning the Duke of Clarence to supporting Churchill to preserving Nelson.
Why, though, we should be drinking more than our continental cousins is a question that has been taxing far finer minds than mine; I will merely point out some significant and unique aspects to our situation: the weather, the food, the pubs, the television, the roads and Jonny Wilkinson's fitness. Concern, however, over the whereabouts of the Prime Minister can be safely discounted, as his disappearance post-dated the survey. Ditto, John Prescott in charge, Gate Gourmet, the A-level results, Jude Law and Glenn McGrath.
I should not like to leave the impression, though, that we drink more only because of local conditions. We survey the world, and not only to look for the Prime Minister. And to France and Germany, we recommend this maxim, over there on the wall between the ones about not having to be mad to work here and the impossible taking longer: "If you're not worried, you're not paying attention."