Monday, 6 June 2016

Still not getting it!

I was flicking through the pages of “What’s Brewing” yesterday morning, and a couple of things caught my eye. For the uninitiated, “What’s Brewing” is the official newspaper of the Campaign for Real Ale. The paper can trace its origins back to the early 1970’s, not long after CAMRA was formed. This cleverly-named publication has seen several changes over the past 40 years, but it is still mailed out to members each month; just as it was in the very early days of the Campaign.

The main headline in this month’s edition, and the one which really attracted my attention, reads “Pubs key role in reduced figures for alcohol abuse”. According to the article, research by the Local Alcohol Profile for England, (whoever they might be), has revealed a significant fall in the number of hospital admissions related to harm caused by alcohol. The fall is across all age groups and applies to both sexes.

Good news, of course, but the article then goes on to link this fall with the findings from research group carried out by Oxford University. This different research concludes “Pub-goers are likely to drink less if those around then are behaving in a measured way and are, as a result, likely to be less tolerant of socially inappropriate behaviour”. 

Nothing new there, but this is where CAMRA’s chief executive Tim Paige, throws his hat into the ring by stating, “This is why it is especially important we continue to support pubs across the country, to ensure everyone has a local within easy distance of their home or workplace”.

So far, so good, but Tim then goes on to spoil things by stating “We at CAMRA believe there should be greater acknowledgement by government, of the distinction between those who drink in moderation in responsibly-managed social settings, and those who abuse alcohol – most often bought from supermarkets and drunk at home”.

I really thought CAMRA had moved beyond this, but it would appear not, and it is back to the same old rhetoric about supermarkets selling beer at a cheaper price than water, and unless you purchase your drink in a pub, and consume it there under the watchful eye of the licensee, you are abusing alcohol and are at serious risk of harm. Really???

I wrote about this very thing just over three weeks ago, pointing out that many of us drink at home for personal, family, financial reasons or just the plain fact that there isn’t a decent pub within walking distance. I don’t want to go over the whole article again, but speaking from personal experience I drink far less within the confines of my own home than I do when I’m in the pub.

Tim Page - CAMRA CEO
By trotting out the old chestnut that pubs provide a “safe and controlled drinking environment”, whilst implying that a person’s private residence does not, is not only disingenuous, but is also playing into the hands of the anti-alcohol lobby, who of course would like to see all drinking banned.

Now I had the pleasure of meeting Tim a few weeks ago, at the “Consultation Meeting” I attended in relation to CAMRA’s “Revitalisation Project”, and he came across as a pretty level-headed sort of chap. I am therefore more than a little surprised to see him coming out with such a statement; especially as it is fundamentally flawed. 

You are obviously not listening Tim; or if you are you are only hearing what you want to hear. If CAMRA continues down the road of alienating the large, and still growing, section of the population who, for whatever reason prefer to drink at home, it will be doing itself a grave disservice. Furthermore it will provide ammunition to those lobbying for minimum pricing for alcohol - an issue which had almost faded away, but which now seems to be rearing its ugly head once more.

Alcohol is alcohol, and to make out that pub bought booze is somehow more virtuous than a few bottles bought from a supermarket is akin to talking out of one’s rear end!


Curmudgeon said...

I've written a letter to What's Brewing making exactly this point. It will be interesting to see if it is published...

Paul Bailey said...

Good luck with the letter, Mudge. Yes, it will be interesting to see if “What’s Brewing” publishes it. Unfortunately, as your name isn’t Keith Flett, and your letter will be critical of CAMRA official policy, I think the chances of it appearing in print aren’t all that good. Still, you never know, and Tom Stainer might surprise us all by taking an independent stance.

On the wider front, should Britain vote to leave the EU on 23rd, minimum pricing for alcohol, could be very much back on the agenda; especially as European legislation preventing the price-fixing of markets will no longer apply.

Cooking Lager said...

You are not adults, you are children

You must be watched when you play

Curmudgeon said...

My column in July's "Opening Times" also deals with this subject - and that *will* be published.

While the EU may occasionally save us from ourselves, that isn't any justification for it. As the late Tony Benn said:

"Some people genuinely believe that we will never get social justice from the British government, but that we will get it from Jacques Delors. They believe that a good king is better than a bad parliament. I have never taken that view."

It's also unclear to what extent we will still be subject to Single Market regulations in the event of a Leave vote.