We can drink to forget – it’s official

Phew! The drinks industry and the supermarkets can breathe a sigh of relief – for the moment. Gordon Brown has cracked down sharply on the suggestion made by his influential chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, that any alcoholic drink should cost a minimum of 50p.

Now that pubs are in terminal decline, cut-price lager and cider promotions in the supermarkets are pretty much all that is propping up the breweries. Certainly branding isn’t doing the trick any more, as the sorry demise of the once “reassuringly expensive” Stella has demonstrated with crushing effect.
For a while it looked as if the Scottish National Party’s dalliance with a similar low-price ban was merely a test-market for the real thing, in England and Wales.  A little like the smoking in public places ban (another of Sir Liam’s pet schemes) being trialled in Ireland before implementation here.
But Gordon has left us in no doubt it won’t be happening (this side of a general election at any rate). Apparently, we need to take into account the wider economic impact of a ban in our present straitened circumstances – why should a feckless minority spoil it for the rest of us when all we want to do is drink and forget?
Don’t be deceived, however. The nanny state – aided and abetted by Alcohol Concern and the British Medical Association – will be back for more.
Clearly, Portman Group, the UK drinks industry’s main ginger group, is not being duped for a moment. Suspicious of further interference (a pre-9pm watershed ban, for example, on television advertising), it is preparing a major campaign to turn the tide of opinion back in favour of tippling freely.
Called Project 10 in the trade, it will be launched with the catchline Why Let Good Times Go Bad? and focus heavily on persuading people to exercise personal responsibility when consuming alcohol.
Self-regulation’s the best regulation, eh? No doubt the financial services community would whole-heartedly agree.

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