Retail and hospitality: playthings of political posturing
Far too often when the Government-types at Westminster want to mount their high horses for some quasi-ideological crusade, it's the economy's engine room - retail and hospitality - that is targeted for implementing headline-motivated public policy. Wouldn't they be better served cleaning up their own back yards, asks Basement Jack?
It's hard not to smile at the wit and wisdom of the British public sometimes. As these lines are being written the term #camdinewithme is trending on Twitter. Genius. Whether or not dinner with David Cameron or George Osborne is in fact for sale to anyone with £250,000 lying around is neither here nor there; 'politicians-in-you-can-buy-influence-shocker' is hardly News at Ten. Exactly no-one is surprised that the extremely rich can gain the ear of elected officials - it's a practice as old as parliament itself.
But the timing of this story could hardly have been any worse given the high moral tone of the PM's recent renewed attack on the demon of alcohol, following the Chancellor's March budget. Yes indeedy, binge-drinking is a thing again. Once more TV news programmes are filled with stock footage of hideously mullered twenty-somethings staggering about late-night city centres, falling over, barfing and fighting in kebab shops. These whey-faced louts are, the Tories would have you believe, the product of a binge-drinking broken society that Cameron's Crusaders [£100k for the front bench coffee & cake package] are hell-bent on eradicating.
There's no question that most people could live without having to skirt the broken bottles and pools of sick on a Sunday morning. But trying to stop young folk getting drunk over the weekend...that sounds a wee bit tricky, like trying-to-convince-the-tide-not-to-come-in tricky. The idea that introducing a minimum price per unit of alcohol will stop those young people determined to drink is just pure fantasy. If they want to get drunk, they're going to get drunk, if they want to 'pre-load', they're going to 'pre-load' - and they will find a way be it via less regulated independent shops, parental drinks cabinets, theft...
Retailers and hospitality outlets meanwhile not only have to put up with the implication that their cheap alcohol is essentially the sole cause of every great ill in modern Britain, but also face a hit to their already under-pressure sales. The pub sector in particular is in the firing line as it is also reeling from an inflation-plus-2% beer tax escalator. What's more it's not going to be the city centre bars that feel the pinch the most; once their clientele are in and socialising, they're not going to be nursing a single pint over the course of an evening. Nope, it's the regular pubs in quieter areas that are going to suffer.
With around 16 pubs closing every week across the UK, it's a kick in the crotch the sector could well have done without. What's more it is surely only a matter of time before the armchair colonels of the Tory heartlands start to notice that a frothing nut-brown pint of Badger's Nadger down at the old Lash & Servant is eating into their hard-earned pensions. Depriving such a group of one of their principal pleasures outside of bowls and shouting could come back to bite the Tories in the hindparts. These are, after all, experienced complainers and if their dander is up already, they might look less charitably on accusations of corruption at the highest levels of government.
At the same time while supermarkets, due to their size, will manage to soak up any drop in trade, the smaller retailers won't find it so easy. It just seems a little misguided to make life more difficult for industries already suffering in the economic climate as part of a policy that has no hope of succeeding.
Got to wonder where the idea came from...maybe an expensive dinner on Downing Street?