Wednesday, 25 January 2012

In which CAMRA join the "we hate drinkers" brigade (plus of course smokers)


I'm not a member of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), never have been and have no intention of becoming one. Not because CAMRA didn't do a great job back in the 1970s and 1980s rescuing us from dire, barely drinkable ales but because they have become an organisation with no point other than to place the imprimateur of their brand on pubs. And to campaign alongside the prohibitionists, temperance advocates and assorted nannying fussbuckets against the ordinary drinker.

So it is great news that The George Hotel in Cullingworth was named "Pub of the Season" by Bradford CAMRA - not bad going after less than a year since the folk at Old Spot Brewery (more specifically, Chris and Jo) took over. I can recommend a visit should you find yourself in Cullingworth.

The bad news is that the other thing CAMRA have stamped their approval on is a report written by lefty think-tank IPPR into why so many pubs closed. Apparently it isn't anything to do with the smoking ban at all because (wait for it):

Our brief analysis of why pub closure rates differ between parliamentary constituencies indicates that there is a weak positive correlation between closure rates and smoking rates in England. However, this may be hiding other explanatory variables: for example, it may be simply because smoking rates are higher in more deprived communities.
Now the denizens of pubs pre-ban will know a couple of things - in wet-led pubs in urban areas around three-quarters or more of regulars were smokers. And, as we've all noticed, it's these pubs that have closed. The big food-oriented pubs with large gardens on the edge of town or in country villages haven't closed in the same numbers (although I noticed that The Triangle at Triangle - perhaps the only village named after a trademark - is boarded up).

Instead of this, the IPPR/CAMRA wants us to believe that the main reason for people stopping going to the pub is that booze is too cheap in supermarkets. Indeed, IPPR/CAMRA go on to say - without evidence or foundation - that:

The supermarkets are able to use their market power to ensure that increased duty is not passed on by their suppliers.

They can also afford to sell alcohol at below cost and as a loss leader to entice customers through their doors and spend on other products. 

I'm pretty sure that both these statements are untrue. Even the prohibitionists don't think these statements are true, for heaven's sake!

And tell me, do you really believe that that nice Mr Smith who used to come in, sit on the stool at the end of the snug bar and smoke his pipe isn't coming in because he's buying 38p cans of watery lager from the Co-op? No, he's sat in his living room watching the telly, drinking a glass of bottled ale and smoking his pipe. And he's not coming into the pub again (except once a month with the local history club) because he can't smoke that pipe.

And CAMRA along with the idiots at Greene King and the nutters at Diageo have fallen hook, line and sinker for the nannying fussbuckets' agenda. Introduce a minimum price per unit for alcohol (just 40p say the bearded ale-suppers) and it will all be fine! Except it won't.

That 40p will soon be 50p. Then 60p and in no time £1. And the prohibitionists, nannying fussbuckets and adherents to the Church of Public Health will still scream about the terrible damage alcohol is wreaking on society.

So we'll get advertising restrictions and advertising bans. We'll get licensing restrictions and regulatory controls. High alcohol content beers will be banned. Warning labels will be placed on alcohol products - getting more and more extreme with each new iteration.

Soon universities and colleges will close their bars. Some will ban alcohol on campus. Only teetotallers will be recruited by the NHS and having alcohol in their private cars will lead to some workers being sacked.

And still the prohibitionists will scream about the evils of drink. We'll still get haggard doctors frowningly explaining how even one sip of booze could lead to alcoholism, liver disease and cancer.

This is not what CAMRA want - this is an organisation supposed to be an advocate for a healthy, mature and quality approach to boozing. Yet they are lining up with the ghastly people whose aim is to "denormalise" drinking, to make it something that normal people don't do - to kill the very think that CAMRA campaign for.



Publican Sam said...

Somewhat misleading methinks especially as this "left think-tank2 is actually triumphing the social value of community pubs and putting forward policy suggestions that might protect the future of these cherished institutions...

It's a jolly long read, but worth the time it takes ... my favourite quote is : "At the same time, pubs are not just about beer: if everyone visited a pub to drink alcohol on their own, a definitive component of pub culture would be lost. The community pub at its heart is an institution for social drinking and it is from fulfilling that function that so many of its positive benefits flow."

Or didn't you get that far?

Fredrik Eich said...

Publican Sam,
I have read that part of the report
and commented on it on MA

Simon Cooke said...

@Publican Sam

In case you hadn't guessed I'm one of those people who keep pubs going, you know regular drinkers.

And there's no doubt at all that the smoking ban devastated the typical urban boozer.

As to the "pub is a community asset" nonsense, what you're arguing for is for the government to make every other source of alcohol more expensive. In simpler terms, to fix the market for the pub because it is a "vital community asset".