So it looks as though the Government is ditching the idea of a minimum price per alcohol unit in England. I have discussed this several times before (such as here) and don't want to go over old ground again. CAMRA voted to abandon support for minimum pricing at its AGM in April this year, and some members wrote irate letters to the CAMRA newspaper deploring the decision. I hope those members will now reflect on the fact that the Government has now turned away from this policy too, leaving them in alliance with the anti-alcohol campaigners - a strange position for any CAMRA member to be in. It's interesting that, at the same time, the Government has announced that the proposal to put cigarettes in plain packaging will be deferred until the success of a similar policy in Australia can be assessed. Despite their denials, this looks like a U-turn to me, because existing smokers are unlikely to take much notice, and it will be years before the deterrent effect of plain packaging on potential smokers will become apparent.
Whatever their rationalisations, I believe that there is one main reason for both of these U-turns: the Tories are worried that they are increasingly looking like the party that stamps on ordinary people's pleasures. Yes, even they are realising that it is not good for their image, and re-election chances, to come across too much like a bunch of hectoring nannies. While I have no truck with UKIP, the Tories must have noticed that the growing popularity of Nigel Farage's party hasn't been damaged by the frequent sight of him unashamedly drinking a pint and actually looking as though he's enjoying it; a stark contrast to the disapproving glares of the minimum price advocates with their apocalyptic stories of imminent social and financial collapse caused by booze, even though in reality alcohol consumption has been in decline for many years. I wouldn't be surprised if Ken Clarke, the only credible bon viveur amongst prominent Tories, were encouraged to be seen in public once again clutching pint and cigar.
I doubt we've seen the last of minimum pricing ever, but let's hope it's been kicked into the long grass for a good while.
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