Bitter end

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Say what you like, but some of these Conservative MPs are right, you know ­ this country has changed out of all recognition; and nowhere more so than in the trip down the local pub.

Say what you like, but some of these Conservative MPs are right, you know ­ this country has changed out of all recognition; and nowhere more so than in the trip down the local pub.

Already, in what seems no longer than it takes to catch the eye of a bored Australian barmaid, the ancient right of every Briton to sip insipidly fizzy beer sustained only by the odd pickled egg in a smoke-filled room adorned with floral carpets and differently floral wallpaper relieved by the occasional horse brass has been fatally eroded.

And now this Government proposes, if re-elected, to end another highlight ­ last orders, immortalised by Bill Tidy in The Cloggies: "96 pints and get your finger out!" What price all those field skills in timing, elbowing and fiver-waving if our pubs and other licensed premises are open 24 hours a day?

Yes, we can see the sense of it; but how well has this curb on the bingeing lout been thought through? What about, for example, the former Rotherham drayman who could shift 14 pints a day even under the old dispensation and is likely to have a lot of time on his hands after the election? There could be trouble ahead.

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