The Guardian wants to tell us how living standards have changed over the 50 years since the 50 pence piece was introduced. Fair enough - matters have improved massively by the only standard that actually counts, how many hours work do we have to put in to purchase what lifestyle?
We are however struck by one little detail:
Back then, when booze was relatively cheap, it really was possible to go for a night out and still have change from 50p. A 50p piece in 1969 could buy you three pints of mild or bitter (priced about two shillings, equal to 10p) while a tube fare on the newly opened Victoria line in London cost just 5d (2.2p). You’d still have enough left to buy a portion of chips and a copy of the Guardian, then priced at 6d (2.5p).
Few denizens of Fleet Street as was would regard three pints of mild as a night out - that was breakfast. But as we can see a copy of The Guardian used to cost the same as a quarter pint of beer. Today’s price? £2.20 on a weekday and £3.20 on Saturday:
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most expensive pint of beer is in London at £5.19, while the cheapest is in Carlisle at a more reasonable £2.35.
That is, The Guardian has gone from costing a quarter pint of that happy produce of our isle to somewhere between a half and a full pint.
True, these days they’re more likely to spell their own masthead right - Grauniad is not just a joke - but it’s not obvious that the quality has improved otherwise over those decades, is it? We wonder, what is it that justifies the paper having an inflation rate four times that of the price of beer? Especially since they note that back then beer was relatively cheap, something by implication they’re asserting it isn’t today. Can’t all be Polly’s salary now, can it?