A modest proposal for Boris and alcohol…
The latest wheeze from City Hall (well, Boris Johnson’s fevered mind) is a plan to reduce alcohol-related crime in London, taken straight from South Dakota (no, really!).
It would see offenders convicted of alcohol related offences forced onto a “sobriety programme”, and made to pay for twice-daily breath/blood tests as enforcement. Both Boris and the State of South Dakota claim a 99.6% compliance rate, and a 14% reduction in the prison population,solely because of this measure. No doubt the rivers of South Dakota have also turned into Lemonade, and the hens lay had-boiled eggs. It smacks of New labour at its very worst.
Alcohol dependency is an illness, and alcohol related crime is a social blight – one that the Drinks Industry thinks that it can get around with its nifty little “Drink responsibly” tack-ons to its adds. the above measure is a grand-standing bit of spin, but no more. Given Johnson’s own established capacity for booze, and his promotion of alcohol-fueled interviews at The Spectator, it is also a sick joke.
The truth is that from the 1980s, successive governments have “liberalised” the sale and availability of alcohol, at the behest of Drinks Companies and Supermarket chains, with little real thought about the social or medical consequences. I should declare an interest here, as I work as a Bar Manager, and have worked in the industry for around twenty years. My Father and Grandfather were both Landlords, so I may have a little experience here, in both Pubs and the high-end places that Johnson and his pals frequent.
In Australia, the service of booze is much better regulated, and here is why…
Along with personal Licences for those managing/owning premises, in Oz all staff have to have what is called an RSA – Responsible Service of Alcohol Certificate. Courses cost around Aus$200, and are generally paid for by employers, or can be attended individually.
This has a number of results. The first is that, on cost grounds alone, Alcohol is segregated to its own shop in all Supermarkets, which cuts down on under age purchases, and spur of the moment purchases.
Secondly, all staff, not just management have not only a legal responsibility, but can also receive legal punishment, leading to loss of work if they fail in their legal duties, making the checking of ID, refusal to serve drunks etc more frequent.
The RSA course also has a section on the medical effects of booze, and has led to greater youth-awareness of the harm excessive drinking, both long and short term.
We also need to deal with the discounts used by Supermarkets trading in alcohol – my own preference would be for a ban on off-sale discounts, and also on on-trade discounts not involving cooked food – in effect ending cheap “Happy Hour” jug cocktails at a stroke.
This would not be welcomed by Diageo or Tesco, and I doubt Boris would have the stomach for it, given the huge amounts of cash thrown at the tories by Supermarket chains and Drinks Multinationals, but if we do not tackle this effectively an soon, then we could see a rebirth of a hardcore prohibition movement – fuelled by and fuelling religious animosity.
Come on Ed, lets get this underway…