Mark Daniels: Politicians v The Pub

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Free tap water, Alcoholic beverage

When I was in my youth - and, for the purposes of this example, we'll say up to the age of 27 - I never considered myself to be a politically...

When I was in my youth - and, for the purposes of this example, we'll say up to the age of 27 - I never considered myself to be a politically motivated individual. Apathy had a new meaning when it came to me and politics.

All politicians ever seem(ed) to do is avoid answering a question directly and spending the first eight years in power blaming the previous government for all the mistakes that are still happening, and then the next four years trying to justify why their original manifesto still hasn't been implemented.

By the time Labour came to power in 1997 the only thing I could see that the Conservatives had done wrong was develop a particularly juicy taste for putting oranges up each other's bottoms, and then letting The Sun know about it.

I didn't really care, until Labour started messing about with my life directly. Shortly after they came to power, I got married - and they immediately abolished Married Man's Tax Allowance, kindly replacing it with Child Tax Credits so that everybody with children would get the benefits instead. Except that, at the time, I wasn't eligible for it - despite the fact that my wife had to give up work and our income dropped.

Shortly after that, and doing well in my role, I was rewarded with a newer, better company car - and Gordon Brown changed the tax rates on company cars and my bill went from 15% to 32%.

The steady rise of tax abuse on the people and businesses of this country continued until, eventually, I lost my job and used the redundancy cheque to buy in to my pub - a move I hoped would give me the opportunity to reward myself directly for the hard work of running my own business.

However, the inevitable hike on taxes continued, the licensing laws changed heralding a new level of paranoia from certain parts of the media, and Labour brought in the rather draconian Smoking Ban. The effect on the pub industry was little short of catastrophic. While most bigger pubs, town centre environments and food-based establishments were mainly able to weather the storm, smaller pubs, village community outlets and similar were simply beaten over the head with a rather large mallet as their customers walked, attracted by the suddenly cheaper prices of the supermarkets and the ability to sit at home and smoke in front of their children, friends and family whilst drinking as much alcohol as they could consume without some nosy-parker Landlord sending them home when they'd had enough.

Suddenly, the pub trade was up that famous creek, while Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling busied themselves making sure Northern Rock collapsed, triggering the onset of Britain's share of the amicably titled "Credit Crunch" and guaranteeing that small businesses across all trades would suffer slow and painful demises.

Now the Government have taken the next step and forbidden, from April, pubs, bars and clubs from running promotions.

I don't think "speed drinking" contests are very clever, and irresponsible retailing should be frowned upon, but does "irresponsibility" include Wetherspoon's selling a pint of Ruddles for 99p? Does it include Sainsbury's selling a 15 pack of Carling for £10? Or Asda selling two 4-packs of Smirnoff Ice for £7, just 87.5p per bottle? These offers are in far more establishments than the Dentist's Chair or Ladies Drink Free.

The new Mandatory Code - which sees the introduction of compulsory 125ml glasses of wine, free tap water, ID checking on anybody who doesn't look old enough to shave and will, presumably, mean the end of that pub-favourite, The Yard of Ale - barely touches the off-trade and passes virtually all the onus of responsibility on to pub landlords.

By this stage in my life my political apathy would appear to have worn off and I'd be almost about to start shouting that the Conservatives should be voted back in forthwith and we should fund all the oranges they can cope with.

But I've read this morning that even they intend to carry on with the slow, inexorable attack on the Great British Pub. Apparently, if you're a licensed premises looking to trade after midnight, they intend to add a further tax to your already over-burdened coffers.

I'm licensed to the early hours of the morning, and I regularly trade within them. I don't churn bucket loads of drunken yobs on to the streets at midnight, potentially waking my neighbours, but I do get enough of a trade to make being open at that time viable.

If I'm taxed on it, however, then it may no longer be worth my while.

While the bickering about the Tie goes on and we wrap Government departments up in more-and-more investigations in to the legality of industrial contracts, politicians will simply keep bringing in more and more red tape and legislation behind our backs that will allow us to be fined £20'000 for not offering free tap water because we keep telling them that the only thing wrong with our industry are the companies that own our buildings.

Meanwhile, Tesco sit with their blueprint to have an Extra store at the heart of every village before too long...

PistonHead Point

The following quote was seen on the forum of a motoring website today:

"'The Boozer' has been priced out of the game, due to ridiculous rents and tax. For the price of a dodgy pint you can buy 4 cans from Tescos, it's a no brainer. Social drinking is dead, pubs are closing and the alternative is to sit at home or go on the razz in the town centres. And they wonder why they have a problem?"

Depressing, isn't it, that a motoring website is lamenting the passing of the good old British Pub?

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