David Blackburn

Labour calls cease-fire on binge drinking

Labour calls cease-fire on binge drinking
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The government has sued for peace. The Observer reports that in the face of lobbying from the drinks industry, the government has dropped its mandatory code on the sale of alcohol, which Gordon Brown first brewed-up during the local election campaign. Labour excuses the u-turn on the grounds that vulnerable pubs and drinks retail industry must remain viable during this fragile economic situation. On the face of it, that is sensible; delve deeper and that excuse does not hold.

Of course, there’s no sense in endangering businesses by punishing all drinks deals and ‘happy hour’ promotions. However, aspects of the code would have outlawed promotions such as ‘all you can drink for a tenner’ or ‘have a quart of vodka poured directly down your throat’. Binge drinking is a two pronged problem: drinking to excess and the frenzied raucousness that retailers encourage. Eradicate the latter and the former is diminished. The government has decided against such action, perpetuating divisiveness.

Last night, I walked into Victoria station and witnessed the most bizarre tableau unfold. Two men lifted a third into handstand, whereupon he proceeded to drink one of the more manly alco-pops upside down, defying gravity. Having completed his Herculean labours, he was returned to his feet, when he suddenly, and very violently, vomited. Shortly after, he melted to the floor in the manner of the Wicked Witch of the West.  The station’s wider environs resembled Holby City, such was the preponderance of prostrate bodies and self-pitying moans. I don’t see why I should be forced to slalom through this morass.

There’s an prescient irony in one industry figure’s comments: “We can probably assume that the mandatory code is face down in the water”. Recession or recovery, profits come with responsibilities and no one has the inalienable right to get paralytic and fight. The government should not have succumbed to pressure and dropped this code in its entirety. The only positive I discern is that this decision will infuriate Sir Liam Donaldson.