There is no doubt about it, we have to call time on the Booze Britain Culture however; the arguments around how best to tackle the issue rumble on ad infinitum. I suspect that will still be the case for many more years to come…
I don’t think many right-minded people would disagree, the negatives of excessive drinking are having a profound impact on our society. Our NHS see the impacts, our police and other emergency services are in constant combat against it and ultimately, many members of our society are suffering from it. The health and anti-social behaviour issues are myriad.
Nevertheless, some of the figures being bandied about on all sides of the arguments are not always what they seem. Take for instance the £2.7 billion price tag impact for the NHS in 2012, claimed by David Cameron as fact but found to be questionable (see Full Fact).
When the Government published their Alcohol Strategy, they emphasised the drain of alcohol abuse on our society. Central to that argument was the “overall cost of alcohol-related harm” which they placed at a staggering £21 billion a year to the UK economy.
Was that right? Investigations into the claim found that “Neither the Home Office nor the Department of Health were able to explain properly where the figures were from, and there is no obvious single point of contact to verify the original calculations” (see Full Fact).
Political spin on statistics aside. in the blog Representing the Mambo a self-professed ‘leftie’ alluded to her support for the MUP policy. A policy that was being put forward in 2011/12, but now appears now to have been shelved by David Cameron.
Obviously there are class issues and base political calculation at play and any minimum price would affect working class people disproportionately, but the solution is obvious. Drink less. The left shouldn’t be encouraging heavy alcohol consumption and siding with the drinks companies and their socially destructive agenda…(Supporting the Mambo)
In March this year there was a political U-Turn on the previous rhetoric and David Cameron wobbled on his minimum price for alcohol pledge. Despite the recent adoption of a similar policy in Scotland last year, the legality of the process is having a difficult birth due to an objection from Europe about its legality.
What about the costs/benefits analysis surrounding Minimum Alcohol Pricing?
The Government wants to set higher prices for alcohol. We think this will punish the responsible majority. Why should responsible drinkers pay more? (www.whyshouldwepaymore.co.uk)
Despite the Why Should We Pay More campaign actually being ‘the voice’ of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association, who obviously have a vested commercial interest in the matter, there are also a number of valid reasons why Government-set higher prices aren’t likely to cure the Booze Britain problem (see here).
SABMiller, one of the largest brewing organisations in the world (another vested interest), have also released poll results from YouGov which show that, contrary to the Government’s claims of a boost to the industry, a 45p minimum price for alcohol will turn people away from pubs (Download YouGov report PDF -0.48Mb).
The Institute for Fiscal Studies have also examined the significance of a minimum unit price for alcohol, especially relating to on and off-licence sales and concluded; “ it is unlikely that a minimum price would have much direct impact for on-licence (pub) prices” (see here).
It’s a valid factor that could have influenced a decisions by the chief executives of 12 pub chains, nightclub groups and brewers; they recently wrote to The Daily Telegraph, urging the Prime Minister to “stick to his guns”, saying that the proposed (MUP) measure would “save lives and protect great British pubs” (see here).
Despite all the UK-wide calls for minimum pricing by many politicians, medical professionals, health campaigners and people from both inside and outside the industry, it appears the battle over alcohol pricing is set to continue for some time yet. With all the controversy and divided opinion, the minimum unit pricing policy could be dropped all together!
But what of my views and opinions?
Those who’ve been here before may already know some of the answer to that question, at least in part. With upwards of forty years ‘booze’ experience, firstly as a purveyor, secondly as an enforcer and latterly as a purveyor again but throughout, always a fan of the enjoyment obtained from sensible drinking, I think you could say I’m more than qualified to comment.
The first observation is; the ‘Booze Britain’ problems we face today are as a direct result of the changing attitudes now imbedded in our society over several generations. Getting off your head on alcohol is no longer the side-effect of having a good time, it is the sole intention of many who drink, in particular our younger citizens.
The second major impact on the issue is this; with the advent of and predominance of pub-chain conglomerates within the licensed trade, provision of alcoholic beverages has become a major commercial concern. It is no longer the ‘cottage industry’ it once was, the halcyon days when pubs were the hub of our communities and also, the actual home of the majority of licensees and their families. And all that before we even start to consider the impacts of loss-leader booze sales in our supermarkets.
The final negative impact is this; for several decades we have seen a decline in any realistic proactive enforcement of our licensing laws. Add to that a (mostly) ineffective reactive response to today’s anti-social behavior, resulting from the after effects of too much alcohol, and we have some serious problems. Issues which then have a profoundly negative impact upon crime statistics and our health services.
It’s unlikely there will be a sea-change in any of these factors overnight, despite what politicians may think or desire. Although MUP may seem a sensible measure at face value, it is a facile and inadequate solution. It is also unlikely to ever result in the aims it is designed to achieve.
The price of booze isn’t the problem here, or the route cause of the issues we face. It’s the predominant public perception of the rights and wrongs of getting off your head, that and a devil-may-care attitude to the impacts of the aftermath on others.
There is no singular ‘quick fix’ for the ‘Booze Britain’ problems we now face, MUP certainly isn’t the magic key. Any return to the erstwhile era of simply enjoying a night out, without all the negative impacts, is likely to take a generation or more to fix!
- David Cameron abandons plans for minimum alcohol price (telegraph.co.uk)
- Pubs demand minimum alcohol price (telegraph.co.uk)
- Minimum alcohol pricing could just work. It should be given a chance (guardian.co.uk)
- Government to shelve plans for minimum price on alcohol (independent.co.uk)
- David Cameron ‘ignoring compelling evidence’ that dearer alcohol would save lives (independent.co.uk)
- Calling time on the Booze Britain culture? (bankbabble.wordpress.com)
- Poll: Should there be a minimum price per unit of alcohol? (eadt.co.uk)
- Is cheaper beer a sign of muddled thinking? (bbc.co.uk)
I read an interesting Guest Blog by John Clifford at No Offence, the award-winning cross sector criminal justice community. Whilst examining a recent report by Lord Stevens, Clifford raised some interesting and pertinent issues, ones that are having a significant impact upon policing in the UK…
Although I partly agree with Stevens I have to say I also tend to agree with some of Clifford’s observations. But many of the points raised by both gentlemen although valid, only partially hit the proverbial nail on the head when trying to understand these issues. There are many varied and undoubtably problematical factors having a negative impact upon our police service today, officer moral is merely symptomatic of the remainder of the issues.
Both observers agree that “police morale is low“ (for differing reasons) and I (like many others) am also convinced that assumption is actually a resounding fact, but also for some differing reasons.
Let me start by saying that, contrary to popular political (and media) lead belief, the vast majority of police officers are not resistant to organisational or process change. It’s one of the aspects of the job that attracts many recruits in the first instance and that constant change was evident throughout my thirty years of service. That said, many of the causes for poor morale currently revolve around the constant state of flux that officers find themselves trying to work within.
Much of that ‘flux’ is down to poor management skills at various levels within the service; management and direction delivered by individuals trying to sell themselves (or ‘their’ service), as opposed to the political and/or financial influence from external sources that many police managers try to suggest.
Even with the current personal impacts of changes to their conditions of service and remuneration, most police officers are still stoic about the situation and continuing to deliver service to the best of their ability, whilst enduring all the mostly politically driven service reform. “I’m not happy but, unlike many, I still have a job” as one serving officer pointed out to me the other day when I asked him how things were going.
Getting back to the blog penned as a response to the recent report by Lord Stevens, Clifford’s opinion is that Stevens was inferring that; the low morale of the police is entirely a result of the failure of politicians to offer them unqualified support. Lord Stevens expresses his viewpoint based upon statistical data from a workforce survey.
The statistic comes from a survey of 14,000 serving officers, from constables to chief superintendents. The research was led by a Professor Jennifer Brown of the London School of Economics…(telegraph.co.uk)
The survey data tends to suggest a large proportion of police officers would no longer vote for the Conservative Party (as many have traditionally done in the past). More worryingly, “fifty-six per cent of those surveyed had recently contemplated leaving the police” and “Ninety-five per cent of serving officers do not feel the Government supports the police,” says Lord Stevens.
We have a national crisis of morale which threatens to undermine the work our officers are doing… (Lord Stevens)
Whether or not the data is anything more than indicative remains to be seen. As I’ve observed on numerous previous occasions; statistics (especially those commissioned by the government or agencies of that government) are often manipulated and/or presented in such a manner that tends to ”prove’ the particular point being raised. But Clifford is also correct when he says:
It is my experience that people who are aware that they are providing a bad product or service in their work do indeed suffer from poor morale, and I do not believe police officers to be immune from that…(John Clifford)
Now I’m not suggesting that this research, led by Professor Jennifer Brown of the London School of Economics, is anything less than factual and accurate but I would ask; is a survey of 14,000 out of a possible 134,101 officers a sufficient slice from which to inform the assumptions being made?
Police officer numbers in England and Wales have fallen to their lowest level in nine years, the Home Office says…(bbc.co.uk)
The full-time equivalent (FTE) officers in the 43 forces of England & Wales is in decline, it stood at 134,101 at the end of March – a fall of 5,009 officers (3.6%) compared to a year earlier (see here) and that decline appears to be continuing. Who knows, perhaps the continued decline will prove the statistics to be even more valid in the future?
There are two main paragraphs in Clifford’s piece which (in my opinion) sum-up where his viewpoint is coming from. The content suggest there is not only a government ’hatred’ of police but also a public one.
I think that the best response to the [Stevens] article is that, if he is correct in the inference that the government hates the police, for once they are in accord with the general public…(John Clifford)
I agree with Clfford in the first of those two paragraphs when he says; “there are several reasons for this” but, like so many other commentators, he appears to skirt over the significant negative impacts generated by the methodologies of our media machine. A press where even the so-called broadsheet types tend to operate with tabloid mentality when it comes to talking about our police service.
Clifford is also right when he says ”increasing incidence of police officers policing the policeable” are impacting upon public support for the police. He points out how ”pursuing prosecutions of basically law-abiding people for minor offences” and “one-off offences by people defending their person or property” has alienated the public from the policing process.
He is again correct in his assumption that too often; “if one tries to report an escalating pattern of threat, the police are [often] powerless to take preventive action.” More worryingly he describes how the police are “disparaging and unhelpful toward those who report it, often turning on the person reporting the issue with threats about what will happen to them if they were to take action themselves.”
In the second of those two paragraphs Clifford outlines his next point about the lack of respect for police officers. Clifford says that Stevens (read police) wrongly believe that this lack of respect is “a product of societal and governmental reductions in standards.”
I don’t think it is wrong to believe it is a societal issue. There is a commonly held understanding that our police should (and mostly do) reflect the standards, ethics and morals of the society from which they are drawn. That fact alone also helps to endorse Clifford’s final observation of the paragraph in that; “…the actions of most MPs is certainly evidential of a considerable gap in morality between them and the general public too.” The ‘gap’ to which he refers, in a society of predominant self-interest and self-importance of the individual, perhaps isn’t actually as wide as he would like to think it is.
Clifford continues by saying that; ”erosion in the respect in which the police are held is [in his opinion], rooted in their steadfast refusal to address failures within their own ranks.” This may be “an attitude that began a very long time ago but, were the cases of “officers fabricating evidence against people whom they regarded as deserving of their comeuppance” really as prevalent as he suggests? I doubt it and again, it’s another factor that in many respects, is yet another reflection of predominant traits in our society.
Clifford does mitigate this claim by pointing out the fact that (in many cases), they were quite correct in their assessment of the individuals concerned but that is neither a defence nor relevant. In order to maintain integrity in a free society with democratically defined legal system, one which is based upon ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and relies largely upon judicial precedent, we have to have the belief that it is better for ten guilty people go free rather than one innocent person being convicted.
Clifford rightly suggests there is a separate argument to be had as to whether our legal principles remain practical or appropriate today. In a society that is as dysfunctional as it now is, with as many ethical and moral standards as there is diversity of ethnic and social standing, can we still be confident in saying what is/is not ethically or morally correct, let alone criminal?
That said, we would also do well to consider the fact; many of those so-called ‘travesties of justice’ in the past have only latterly been succesful at appeal due to advances in forensic science, and/or the presentation of some new ‘evidence’ being presented, that wasn’t available during the original court cases.
Around 7.30pm last night I saw a police van drive up the High Street without any lights. The vehicle was driven up onto the footpath and pulled up outside a shop where the alarm was sounding. The officer got out of the vehicle and briefly looked into the shop window, tried the front door then drove off along a pedestrian area before turning back onto the road, still without lights.
The above type of incident does just as much (if not more) to undermine public support for the police. Although relatively insignificant, it unintentionally displays a ”do as I say, not as I do” instruction. It suggests that there are rules for the public and a different set for police officers.
And each time a group of off-duty officers get together for a night out on the town, have fun and get loud and leery, they would do well to remember the eyes of the public are upon them. When interacting with members of the public officers should ask themself; “would I be happy with being spoken to in such a manner?” With or without the uniform every officer, on or off duty, are ambassadors of the service.
Society observes your every move when you become a police officer; you can’t be a diligent professional at work and then a total arse off duty. Or worse, be an arse on and off duty!
It wasn’t (and still isn’t) the odd bent detective who accepted a regular bung from some drug-pusher, fence or dodgy car dealer who have scuppered support for the police. Thankfully that type of individual is so rare as to be insignificant in driving public opinion. No, all those officers who thought/think they can simply behave as they wish, on and off duty, are the ones who have screwed public support for policing!
- Police morale is plummeting, says Lord Stevens (telegraph.co.uk)
- ‘National crisis’ in police morale says former head of Met (independent.co.uk)
- Ask police for help? I wouldn’t bother, Met officers tell poll (guardian.co.uk)
- ‘Morale crisis’ hitting police (bbc.co.uk)
To say that most of us are angry to incredulous proportions about the Qatada situation would be something of an understatement. I’m no racist (see here) but, to negate the usual cries of racism or intolerance that abound when topics like this are raised; the vast majority of those who follow the Prophet Mohamed are also in agreement with our distaste of the man…
This individual has a hand in much of the blood that has been shed in the Islamic world – and the Islamic world alone. This individual beautifies his actions in the name of the religion, however he does not do that openly. It is done by indirect means…
…This is the ideology of takfir, the excommunication of governments, and then by extension whole societies that was given a fresh revival in the works of Sayyid Qutb, the root of all contemporary takfiri and jihadi groups. This then leads to the justification of the killing of innocent men, women and children…(islamagainstextremism.com)
Nick Robinson of the BBC, who is probably far more au fait with all the legal and political intricacies of this case than I, points out in his blog; both the last Labour Government and now the Coalition have been fighting Abu Qatada for 11 years or more. Some estimate suggest, this debacle has cost the tax-payers of this country more than a million pounds. But what are the options?
According Nick there are now only three viable ways for the Government to proceed with the matter:
- Charge Abu Qatada under British law – BUT (so far) there is insufficient evidence to do so.
- Appeal against this week’s ruling – they’ll try but success is (clearly) far from guaranteed.
- Or the most likely, lobby Jordan to change its law again – in an effort to reassure the British courts.
Whatever happens now, and we need to be realistic about the outcomes however; worryingly it does appear that Richard Littlejohn may be right?
Britain will remain a safe haven for terrorists, murderers and rapists from all over the world. The pernicious “yuman rites” industry will continue to prevent us from kicking out foreign criminals, no matter how heinous their record…(Richard Littlejohn – The Daily Mail)
Like many others and for what it is worth; I find it utterly disgusting that those who seek to undermine our freedoms and impose their will and beliefs upon us, also seek protection from that which they despise so vehemently.
That said, can it ever be right for politicians to act outside of the law to achieve a popular result? In a democratic society, with laws that were (hopefully) arrived at in a democratic manner, I think not.
Nick Robinson was also probably correct when he summed up his blog post by saying;
Cheerleaders for human rights legislation say this proves that it can even change laws in the middle east…(Nick Robinson)
I partly agree, it’s just a pity it has to take so bloody long!
- Cameron ‘fed up’ over Abu Qatada (bbc.co.uk)
- Abu Qatada case is reason to change human rights laws, says Justice Secretary (telegraph.co.uk)
- Abu Qatada - A Misguided, Bloodthirsty Takfiri (islamagainstextemism.com)
- Abu Qatada: home secretary faces long battle to overturn deportation ruling (guardian.co.uk)