The Publican newspaper, written for pub managers and pub tenants in the UK, is having a small panic right now because the voting in the current poll on its website is going seriously in the wrong direction – and Publican staffers are now emailing around trying to drum up votes for the “right” answer.
The Publican is asking visitors to its website to vote on the proposition: “Should the government introduce a minimum price per alcohol unit?” Obviously, since pub people understandably hate the deep discounting and (alleged) below-cost selling of alcohol found in supermarkets, it expects an overwhelming “yes” from its readers. Unfortunately for the Publican, right now the vote is running 60:40 in favour of “no” – not the pro-pub message the newspaper wishes to present.
The result, apparently, is that “friendly” contacts are receiving emails from Publican staffers like the one below, from someone who, to protect them, will remain nameless:
Help me please!
We run a poll on our website but I think its been infiltrated by an anti-pub group who have corrupted the result. Can you help me by simply visiting the website http://www.thepublican.com/ and clicking ‘yes’ on the poll on the bottom left hand side of the screen. The idea is that a minimum price on alcohol will help stop chavs necking cheap tins of stella and causing bother on our streets. Please help me in this!
If you can get anyone else to vote yes too I’d be ever grateful – I might even buy you a four pack from Tesco.
Unfortunately I can’t, personally, help the Publican pervert online democracy by casting a “yes” vote, since I don’t agree that setting a minimum price for alcohol will “help stop chavs necking cheap tins of stella and causing bother on our streets”, or save the pub from competition from the supermarkets. I think that those studies that purport to show that higher prices cut alcohol consumption use distorted and inaccurate statistical models, and using price as a social control mechanism is, in any case, unfair on the vast majority who would end up paying more for their pleasure in an attempt (which would almost certainly be unsuccessful) to control the trouble-causing minority.
In addition, I think it’s extremely foolish, and dangerous, for anyone supposedly in the role of a mouthpiece for the pub trade, as the Publican is, to promote the sort of proposal that the neo-prohibitionists would love to see enacted. Minimum retail prices for alcohol are a small step on an extremely slippery slope that leads, ultimately, to Scandinavian-style high pricing, government-controlled alcohol outlets and the rest, and helps to demonise alcohol as a substance that forces people into all the anti-social behaviour we deprecate.
Don’t say: “We need to protect people from themselves, by pricing this stuff out of their reach”: make them face the need to be responsible for their actions. Vote no to minimum pricing!