Wednesday 13 January 2010

Pre-election tension

In case you hadn't noticed, we will have an election this year. Actually, it will be sometime before the beginning of May; it has to be because the current bunch of idiots will have been in power for 5 years by then and thankfully they will be forced to ask us if we would like them to stay on a little longer. My temptation would be to say no, except for the fact that the most likely alternative is absolutely no better in any way shape or form. As I saw one person has written; it's like choosing what colour stick to be beaten by.

I wake up this morning and have a quick look at the news. Snow, earthquake and more alcohol related election promises. It seems that the opposition cannot come up with any new and original policies so they are hitting us with the good old "alcohol is bad" stick just the same as the government.

The last few days have seen the political parties retracting promises they realise can't be afforded, at least not without tax increases, which would be deeply unpopular. We probably have a country that more or less works quite well. Commerce works reasonably smoothly, employees are pretty much protected with robust employment laws, education, crime and healthcare are under control and most of the time the bins get emptied. This gives the political parties something of a problem; the electorate aren't fired up about much really and politics are not finding the big issue to fight for that will make the difference.

Unfortunately, alcohol abuse stories finds resonance with the general electorate. This, by my anecdotal experience, is even true with general responsible drinkers, the type that indeed do fall into the ever tightening definitions of hazardous or harmful drinkers. The general public do indeed believe we have a problem in this country.

Pete Brown is working hard in his efforts to debunk some of the propaganda that is coming from the government. The opposition is working hard to ensure it doesn't lose out on this popular scaremonger tactic. Today the Conservatives are saying that the established system of alcohol units should be replaced by centilitres pure alcohol. The fact that they are exactly the same thing, that is one unit of alcohol is a cl of pure alcohol, isn't putting them off. Their suggestion to change labelling is just a way of making news and will solve nothing.

I think we can look forward to more policies that attack alcohol from the political parties. They can't offer us more services, they daren't, the country can't afford it, we have a deficit to pay off for goodness sake. Alcohol scare stories and phoney alcohol harm prevention policies will dominate over the next few months during the run up to the election.

The problem is, despite Pete Browns excellent work, I'm not convinced we can do a great deal about it, other than perhaps whinge about it on our blogs.


Rob Sterowski said...

I still remember years and years ago having to do the sums to reverse calculate how much alcohol was in a unit because there has always seemed to be a policy of not telling the public — all you ever got was the nebulous "half a pint of beer" or "a pub measure of spirits". Never mind that beer comes in different strengths and there were three different legal measures in use for spirits at the time (1/6 gill in England and 1/5 and 1/5 gill in Scotland).

Now the Tories seem to think that people who still haven't grasped the idea of a unit will be able to get to grips with what a centilitre is? If they'd said 10ml they might have been on to something. At least that would be the same unit of volume that's actually on cans and bottles. 440ml of lager, 18ml of which are alcohol? The problem there is that 18ml doesn't sound very much at all and anyone who thinks that people are going to start adding up 18ml here and 21ml there is on another planet.

As it is, this is a complete non-story and just gives the BBC an opportunity to run another lurid article illustrated with a photo of which kind of drink? I'll let you guess.

Alan said...

While I am no Tory, I like the idea of simply putting the actual alcohol content on the label in terms of ml or cl rather than %. In Canada we have it easy as most beer produced is exactly 5%. Duller craft brewers even follow this pattern. So 4.5% is a light beer and 5.5% is, well, crazy juice. A few months ago, after waking a bit shaggy, I calculated the actual alcohol and then cross referenced it to 40% spirits and 5% standard beer and was quite shocked. Some of these large format bottles have an insane volume of booze even if you say to yourself "I am having a beer".

It is the same things with calories. I posted a post on that a while ago when I realized some of these big rich beers are like a large bracing mug of cake icing.

When you are fat and hungover the math seems to matter more. Maybe the Tories are going for the votes of those who are fat, hungover and have a mild interior gnawing sense of guilt.

Curmudgeon said...

Well, all you can is keep faith with your own conscience and say what you believe. If the worst doesn't happen, you can breathe a sigh of relief; if it does, you can say "I told you so!"

The Beer Nut said...

it's like choosing what colour stick to be beaten by

You could always vote for that other party who were all over the news last year: you may remember there was massive controversy and a fair measure of hysteria in the media.

I think they're called the TNP.

Anonymous said...

I think they might be called the Beer Nurturer's Party. But dark stout is banned. Not sure though.


Matt@HopZine said...

Every time I work up into a storm over the mess of politics it often ends in a very passive "well... what can you do"

I was thinking though, if Rage Against the Machine can become Christmas number one... maybe we can bring the Lib Dems into power via a Facebook group?!

Paul Garrard said...

I suspect that whinge is all we can do. I think alcohol is seen as an easy target. Some sense prevailing would be good, but until there are some non-contradictory facts in the public domain it is very much a question of gut feeling.

Whilst I make no secret of my political allegiance it does feel very often that it will be like same shit different day. Or should that be same shit different party? BTW I’m not sure that the election needs to set for May. Isn’t it June?

Unknown said...

Barm, In 2003, when I did my licensing course, the exact definition of a unit was part of the syllabus. Indeed I think there is a requirement for a licensee to know how to calculate it. Prior to 2003 I don't know.

Alan, you perhaps have a point. In fact, when I think about it changing the method of labelling to a direct SI unit makes the scientist in me agree. Perhaps the Tories are finding a way of getting on the band wagon but avoiding doing any real damage to the businesses and jobs that depend upon the industry. Oh, and avoiding being killjoys as well.

Mudgie, my fear is that one day you will be able to say just that. I have always understood your point on that one.

Beer Nut - Penguins for politicians? Could be worse.

Washy, needn't bother banning anything dark....

Matt, interesting thought. I'm not convinced LibDems would be any better and while I might criticise politics on here I'm less certain about supporting any party publicly. Although I was thinking of a more sensible protest vote so.......

However, the general idea that the next election could be shaped by bloggers is an interesting one.

Paul, I'm not sure I agree about not being able to do anything......Matt has set my mind working......

May? June? Dunno, guess I'd better check.