Hamish Champ: It's gloom. It's doom. It's despondency with a capital 'D'

By Hamish Champ

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Smoking ban Conservatism

What do you think is the 'final nail in the pub industry's coffin'? Is it cheap booze at the supermarket? Is it the smoking ban? Is it the tie? Is it...

What do you think is the 'final nail in the pub industry's coffin'? Is it cheap booze at the supermarket? Is it the smoking ban? Is it the tie? Is it this unsympathetic government and its sledgehammer of a duty rise? Is it the economy in general?

I ask - somewhat rhetorically - because rarely have I seen such a swathe of gloom amid the Sunday newspapers on the subject of the licensed trade.

I do the newspaper round up of a Sunday morning. Yes, while you are having a lie-in, sleeping soundly in your beds, perhaps snuggling up to a loved one, or while you're bustling about getting your pub ready for the lunchtime rush, I am trawling the Great British Press for news on the industry that will interest, amuse, stimulate, irritate, or downright get up your nose.

This Sunday it was a pretty thankless task. Apart from a glimmer of sunshine in the form of Fuller's Simon Emeny sounding like he'd been drinking long and deep from the Happy Well, the general view was that the pub as we know it "ist kaput".

Why this was the case depended on whom one read. But what was encouraging, if that is the right word, was that it appeared that the mainstream media has finally caught up with the fact that these are tough times for a national institution.

Perhaps the message is finally getting through after all. Sadly, what writers don't explore is how to remedy the situation.

However those with political agendas are​ getting in on the act. Living in London and with a mayoral election coming up in a few days time I have the chance to vote in Boris Johnson, the Tory contender for the capital's top political post.

Bozzer has indicated that he will consider polling residents on whether local authorities should be empowered to roll back the smoking ban in enclosed public spaces.

The thing is, even if I wanted the ban repealed why should I believe his pre-election promises any more than those of Messrs Livingstone or Paddick?

Bloody typical, isn't it? People fought for centuries - quite literally - for the right to universal suffrage, and all you get to choose from is this lot.

I don't think the smoking ban will be repealed. While columnists in Sunday newspapers bang on about the nanny state and the like, I doubt that should the Conservatives win the next general election they will change the current situation. I just don't think there is the political will.

Ah!, I hear you exclaim, but what if Tory parliamentary candidates were assured of support provided they committed themselves to backing the return of smoking in pubs? Nope, sorry, can't see that one working either.

No, I think that Cameron and his cohorts, if they are to get the support of licensees and pub-goers alike, would be better off stating publicly, firmly and with "'x' marks the spot" enthusiasm that they support the place of the British pub in today's economy; that they recognise that the vast majority of pubs work hard at providing customers with a place in which to socialise, and that with the fiscal tools at their disposal they will back them to the hilt, 100 per cent.

But then again, who will believe them?

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