Friday, December 19, 2008

House Points: Saving the pub

Today's House Points column from Liberal Democrat News. Like Nick Clegg, I would support a minimum price for alcohol.

It's your round

Did you see the match last night?

No, but I did hear Greg Mulholland the other day. He said:

The government needs to wake up to the importance of the pub … Whenever a pub is proposed to go to a different use, be closed or demolished, the local community needs to be consulted.

At the end of the day, who owns the pub? Legally it's the pub operating company or the landlord. But morally, surely, a community, a village owns a pub that's been there for hundreds of years.

This is it.

People talk about introducing a continental cafe culture to Britain where people treat alcohol with respect. But we used to have something close to that in the traditional pub. At the very least, being able to hold your drink was a quality to be admired.

Yeah, but it’s the kids, isn’t it?

The traditional pub was a patriarchal space, it is true. But in their haste to condemn patriarchy, the feminists…

Keep your head down, the landlady is looking at us.

…failed to reflect that patriarchy involved older men controlling younger men. We have lost that.
And why do people worry about underage drinking in pubs? You and I began going into pubs when we were 16. We drank beer and as long as we behaved ourselves no one took much notice. Today’s 16-year-olds are drinking vodka in bus shelters. Is that really better?

Well, it’s the supermarkets, isn’t it?

It is. The state is loading more and more duty on to drinks bought in pubs while the supermarkets are using alcohol as a loss leader. Should government act, say by enforcing a minimum price?

Jacqui Smith was asked about this on Monday. She said that, given the current economic climate in particular, she does not intend to do so at the moment. But she has not ruled it out for the future.

It’s an interesting dilemma for Liberals. Do we stand up for the right to buy and sell freely, or do we take a wider view of human well-being that involves the flourishing of institutions like public houses?

Fancy another?

Don’t mind if… Oh look, we’ve cleared the bar.


Anonymous said...

Interesting, minimum pricing would no doubt solve some of the issues with binge drinking and of a more subtle fall in to alcohol abuse...but would it really solve the issues of the local pub? Duty has to fall at the same time as supermarket prices going up if you wish to realign the trade...but then are our prices really all that more expensive compared to a pint on the continent?

The ultimate issue to solve is communities not functioning, it is the decline of communities and community integration that is also causing the decline of the pubs that rely on those communities. In this article you say should the communities be consulted if a pub is to be closed, and talk of community ownership...but if they have already abandoned ownership surely that is the reason the pub needs, regrettably, to change from it's current business?

Jennie Rigg said...

As a feminist who works for a feminist pub landlady, I am extremely angry that you think letting women into pubs was the start of the rot.

I expect better of you, I really do.

Jonathan Calder said...

It is hard to be funny and argue a case in 375 words, but I introduced the landlady to this sketch precisely to remind readers that pubs have always been more than a straightforwad patriarchy.

And even if you welcome a particular social change, surely you can recognise that it may have some unwelcome effects and that it is legitimate to discuss them?

Tristan said...

Minimum pricing would not help with any binge drinking problem. Just look at prohibition - it makes things worse.

Surely liberals should support freedom to trade. The problem for pubs is that they are not free to trade, they are regulated to death and the state interferes too much when it comes to what landlords are allowed to let people do on their premises.

Big supermarkets suffer less regulation, don't suffer from the restrictions which pubs suffer from and can absorb the costs of regulation far more easily.

Liberal solution - free pubs from the restrictions placed upon them.

Jennie Rigg said...

Oh, this was supposed to be funny? Sorry.