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Posts Tagged ‘minimum price

Clamp Down on Poor Drinkers: Protest and Revive the Skeleton Army!

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Better a Country Free than a County Sober!

The BBC says,

Ministers are to unveil plans later for a minimum price for alcohol in England and Wales as part of a drive to tackle problem drinking.

The Home Office is expected to publish a consultation on the proposal, which was first put forward in the government’s alcohol strategy in March.

A price of 40p per unit was suggested at the time.

But pressure has been mounting on ministers to follow Scotland’s lead, where 50p has been proposed.

The aim of a minimum price would be to alter the cost of heavily discounted drinks sold in shops and supermarkets. It is not expected to affect the price of drinks in pubs.

The Times predicted a 45p per unit minimum would be set and it said this would raise the price for the average can of beer or cider to £1.12.

According to the NHS website the average can of 4.5% strength lager contains around two units of alcohol, while a small glass of wine contains 1.5 units.

This will affect one group: poor drinkers.

Let us ignore all the ‘medical’ concern about alcohol and binge-drinking.

This is not true. Earlier this year this was published

There has been a long-term downward trend in the proportion of adults alcohol intake, as in 1998 75% of men and 59% of women drank in the week prior to report’s survey compared to 68% of men and 54% of women in 2010. Furthermore, the average weekly alcohol consumption for all adults was 15.9 units for men and 7.6 units for women and  26% of men reported drinking more than 21 units in a typical week. For women, 17% reported drinking more than 14 units in a typical week

The measure is all about cracking down on “”drunken mayhem” on Britain’s streets.

Or, to put more clearly, about dealing with the rabble.

In recent months Ipswich – apparently a ‘model’ for what could become the norm across the country – has ‘encouraged’ (a visit from the rozzers) off-licences not to sell super-strength lager and white cider.

There has been a hysterical campaign in the local media about street drinkers sipping tinnies of Special Brew and Frosty Jack near the centre of town.

The Council, and all local political parties, have joined in.

To cite a recent story from the Ipswich Star,

As the war on cheap super-strength alcohol is stepped up in Ipswich, a Star investigation has illustrated the size of the task facing the authorities.

Reducing the Strength

The Reducing the Strength campaign was launched in the town in September.

The campaign aims to stop the sale of cheap super-strength beer, lager and cider from off-licensed premises.

The campaign is a joint initiative between Suffolk Police, NHS Suffolk, Ipswich Borough Council, Suffolk County Council and the East of England Co-Operative Society.

Reducing the Strength asks off-licence owners to voluntarily remove super-strength products from their stores.

Yesterday police began rewarding shops which have signed up to the Reducing the Strength initiative, aimed at ridding Suffolk’s county town of the scourge of ultra-potent beers and ciders.

But high-alcohol beverages are still easily found in Ipswich.The Star was able to buy a three- litre bottle of cider – costing just £3.99 and containing more alcohol than the weekly recommended allowance for a man – within minutes of trying.

The 7.5 per cent proof Frosty Jacks cider contains 22.5 units – more than health experts’ 21-unit limit for men.

The cost per unit of 17p is less than a third of the 50p limit which prime minister David Cameron wants to impose.

Now there is a problem with street drinkers in Ipswich, as in many towns and cities across the country.

Why has it grown?

Policies of successive governments, known as ‘neo-liberalism’, or the free for all – for business – have excluded many people from the labour Market.

The Dole these days is only given to those who satisfy an increasingly rigorous set of criteria, turn up to bogus ’employment’ schemes (3,5% success rate), and have their lives under constant surveillance.

Many, in the words of my mate Neil, say “fuck it, and go and drink cider in the park”.

Alcohol is only one of their choices.

Most mix the booze with even cheaper tranquilizers (Temazepam), and, frankly, any drug going.

The Left and Alcohol.

Some on the left agree with this clamp-down on poor drinkers.

Some cite the Scottish experience of raising prices. They claim it has been needed because they are particularly afflicted.

In Ken Loach’s The Angel’s Share there is a scene in that land where out-of-their-brains  youngsters snaffle down a 3 litre bottle of Frosty Jack.

You can see this round here every day. I have left my gaff at 9 in the morning and seen people swigging Tenants Super at the end of the street.

This will not go away if the cost is raised. The hard-core  will just beg and, possibly, shop-lift more.

But what is really behind the thinking of those on the left calling for the less well off to cut down on drinking?

In Britain there was a strong teetotaler movement inside the late Victorian and Edwardian labour movement.

Henry Hyndman though not a non-drinker (he liked his Bordeaux vintages) frowned on the workers imbibing strong drink. He once wanted to snatch a bottle of whisky away from SDF members playing cards on a post-Party meeting train.

Against this prejudice Robert Blatchford  felt obliged to make a defence of moderate drinking in his popular Merrie England (1894).

The ILP initially  made it policy for members to sign the non-drinking ‘pledge’ .

I can’t imagine my Whisky drinking Scottish ILP forebears liking that.

The policy  lasted precisely a year.

Today we see people on the left who have given up changing the world and prefer to try to change (that is cajole) people.

Their attitude is often the same as Hyndman.

They can drink fine wines, good quality real ale, and cider.

But the rabble in the streets need ‘reforming’.

The Anarchist journal Now or Never replies,

With heavy drinking increasingly attacked by the Government and media, Tug Wilson suggests we look to history for guidance, and that it is once again time for drunkards everywhere to march under the banner of the Skeleton Army.

During the late 19th Century the recently formed Salvation Army were taking their message of virtuous clean living to the streets of Britain, deliberately targeting drunks, gamblers, prostitutes and other ‘undesirables’.  The Salvation Army’s unconventional approach was abrasive to both the Christian establishment and many of those they were preaching to.  In choosing to attack popular working class pastimes, they whipped up a violent grassroots reaction and their provocative style of disseminating their message often resulted in public disturbances.  Towards the end of 1881 in Weston-Super-Mare a rag-tag bunch of libertines, drunkards, publicans and brothel-keepers began an organised opposition to the Salvation Army; the Skeleton Army.  Very soon Skeleton Armies started appearing throughout the country.

The present anti-alcohol  lobby is the modern temperance movement.

This measure is ill-intentioned, ill-conceived and will be ill-executed.

Join the new Skeleton army!

As Kevin has commented (below) I shall add this further example of hypocrisy, which I cut-and-pasted from his Blog,