Ban the chancellor


barred.jpg There is a campaign afoot to ban Alistair Darling, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, from every pub in Britain. Its organizers are annoyed that he increased the duty on Alcohol in his budget, and not without reason.

The 2008 budget added 4p to the price of a pint of beer, 14p to a bottle of wine, 55p to a bottle of spirits and 3p to a litre of cider. It also introduced an alcohol tax escalator, which means the duty will go up by 2 percent above the rate of inflation in each of the next four years. That means a pint of beer (already more expensive than a line of cocaine, according to some estimates) will cost £6.47 by the time the 2012 Olympics come around.

None of that is good news for the pub trade, or for people who enjoy going out for a drink. The impact of the smoking ban (which I recently heard described as "one of Labour's finest achievements" by a former government adviser) has already meant that 1,409 pubs closed down in 2007, compared with just 102 in 2005. 

Ostensibly, the reason for the tax rises is to curb binge drinking, but everyone knows the taxes won't make the slightest bit of difference – the real motivation for the tax is the same as always: raising revenue. A group of kids sharing a bottle of vodka are hardly going to be deterred by having to split an extra 55p between them. And if binge drinking really were determined by price, wouldn't you expect to find more of it on the Continent, where prices tend to be considerably lower? In reality, it's a cultural thing.

So – in order to have a bit more money to waste, the government is punishing an innocent majority for the sins of the unpleasant few (who aren't going to pay any attention anyway). If I were a pub landlord, I think I'd bar Alistair Darling too.