If you want to really get people’s attention in the UK then there are a certain number of subjects likely to provoke a response. They include but are not limited to immigration, sex, taxation, petrol prices and our membership of the EU.
But if you want to get a reaction that will distract attention from any of the above then all a government has to do is to attempt to instruct the population with regard to how much alcohol they can drink, and hey presto, predictable uproar.
This tactic, although fervently denied by the coalition appeared to be used to distract attention away from what seems to be a very unpopular budget by George Osborne who may have overlooked the fact that many of his core voters may be pensioners and newly appointed higher rate tax payers, not forgetting that they are of course ‘responsible drinkers’.
Problem is that putting the price of alcohol up will make absolutely no difference to a person who is addicted to alcohol (even if they don’t realise they are addicted) and is determined to drink it, because the fact that it is ‘cheap’ is not why they are drinking it in the first place.
Much of the UK’s binge drinking takes place behind closed doors, after work, at weekend parties and barbeques and fortunately there is not usually much in the way of violence to be found there. Most of these people have reasonable incomes, but clearly they are drinking in an attempt to ‘escape’ something, and that something is increasingly becoming the pressure of ‘everyday life’
If they are finding that life is ‘just too much to bear without alcohol’ then they will find away to get it. They will cut down on food, fuel, heating, whatever it takes, for many consistently living in the real world without the use of drugs is unthinkable.
In my view the real consequences of putting the price of alcohol up will result in people switching drink types, and an increase in the popularity of ‘home brew’ products. There will be more crime through perceived desperation, more violence because of increasing frustration and fear, more hospital admissions and increasing costs to the NHS.
I have worked with a number of people described as ‘binge drinkers’ over the past few years and I always ask them one question, ‘Why do you think that you drink alcohol? ‘And so far not a single one of them has replied,
‘Because it’s cheap’
I’m not expecting any of them to stop because it’s too expensive either.