Saturday, 4 February 2012

A bitter row in Parliament

I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later that someone in Parliament would object to a beer with a jokey name.  Labour MP Kate Green took exception to Slaters Top Totty and it was taken off within an hour and a half.  As I'm sure most people reading this know, the pump clip shows a drawing of a young woman in a bikini and bunny ears holding a tray of beers.

The issue has fallen into entirely predictable lines with accusations of sexism and demeaning women on one hand and humourlessness on the other, and I've no intention of rehashing it here.  Personally, I'm not too concerned about this name, although there have been one or two names over the years that I disliked.  Not all women find such names offensive - one of my female friends delights in ordering Top Totty when it's on at our local, and Tory MP Tracey Crouch twittered "Why is a beer called Top Totty offensive & now banned from Commons? Not as if it is called Middle-Ranking Totty" - but I think we have to accept that some women do.  It's no good throwing around accusations of humourlessness, which isn't actually true anyway as we all have different ideas of what's funny.

I don't think it's sensible to call beers by names that reinforce a laddish stereotype in the manner of a 1970s Tetley Bitter advert.  Women are 50% of the population, and choosing names that might be seen as sexist will deter some potential female customers, not just for those particular beers, but perhaps for beer in general; this can't be good business sense, irrespective of whether you think they have had a humour bypass. In this case, though, I'm sure Slaters are loving all the publicity of being banned by Parliament.

The only thing about this whole business I don't understand is why, instead of taking the beer off, they didn't simply remove the pump clip and replace it with a post-it note saying "Slaters 4%".


  1. If it's not good business sense, people won't do it, will they?

    But, as I posted on my blog, the news has led to a surge in orders for the beer, so Slater's brewery are laughing ;-)

  2. "If it's not good business sense, people won't do it, will they?" Really? Northern Rock? Royal Bank of Scotland? Barings? Woolworths? Even Gerald Ratner?

    Yes, Slaters are relishing this publicity, as I suggested in the original post, but it's a one-off because beers in Parliament will be scrutinised from now on to avoid causing offence: this route to mass media coverage will be firmly closed. In any case, my comments weren't about this single incident, but the whole business of giving beers silly names that may deter some potential drinkers.

  3. I am surprised the name of the beer they replaced it with has not been in the news. I would have thought Batemans Anal Rape 4.5% abv would also cause offence.

  4. Not so much about the lack of humour, in my book-as you say, everyone is different-but more why did Kate Green feel the need to raise the issue in parliament? Surely a quiet word in the right ear would have been better? And if she really is "disturbed" by the name, it suggests her stereotype of being out of touch with the real world may be somewhat true.

  5. I tend to agree Tyson ~ why raise the issue so publicly? Anyway, it seems to have backfired, as orders for Top Totty have increased massively as pubs look forward to advertising "the beer Parliament tried to ban"!

  6. Very silly and she has not done the image of the Labour party any good.


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