What now for the pub trade - and the country?

By Hamish Champ

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Liberal democrat leader Pub industry Pub trade

So, days after the election, we still don't know who is to govern the country. This despite the Tories winning more seats with more votes than its...

So, days after the election, we still​ don't know who is to govern the country. This despite the Tories winning more seats with more votes than its nearest rival, the Labour party. And what happened to the 'Clegg effect'?

Even if the Liberal Democrat leader does eventually seal a deal with the Conservatives it's liable to be a mess. Much remains unclear. It reminds me of something former US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's once said about peering into the unknown:

"There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know."

Genius. Seriously though, there's a lot at stake. We all thought that whoever gained power would by now be getting stuck into sorting out the economy, putting things in place that would restore the country's finances to better health, etc.

And yet what we have is inertia of the worst kind. It feels like it will be weeks, possibly months, before whoever is charged with doing whatever is needed will be able to do anything about the state we're in.

I'm not sure the pub trade can look forward to anything positive anytime soon. Higher taxes were - indeed still are - inevitable. There was talk of raising VAT to at least 22.5 per cent. It still could. Duty on petrol, cigarettes and alcohol was also likely to rise. It probably still will. This, despite the political stalemate, has not gone away.

Against such a fiscal and political backdrop, what kind of support can UK pubs expect? Not much, is the short answer. The licensed trade's well-being will be some way down the political priority list.

Yes, the June 2011 deadline for the pub industry to have its house in order will hopefully see better deals for tied licensees, and rightly so. But what then? Will politicians have the appetite to tackle the trade thereafter? Maybe. Maybe not.

With this in mind there's never been a more urgent need for unity within the pub industry, particularly in its dealings with Westminster, or for a fairer deal for those in the tenanted pub sector.

But lest we forget, pubs are businesses. Many are tied, many more are freehouses but all are operating in a supposedly free-market and as such are prey to market conditions, good and bad. There's only so much any business community can do. Thereafter it looks to a government to enact policies likely to bring about prosperity, empowering those generating the wealth of the economy to do just that.

With our hung Parliament, this scenario hangs in the balance. Fingers crossed, eh?

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