After a series of ballots, a discarded tie, and an excruciating televised debate, there are two men left standing in the race to become the UK’s next Prime Minister.
In the second of two ballots on Thursday (20 June), Boris Johnson was backed by 160 Conservative MPs – more than half the total – while foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt pipped Michael Gove by a mere two votes to ensure safe passage to the leadership contest’s next phase.
Johnson and Hunt must now win a vote involving the wider Conservative Party members – 124,000 at the last count in September 2018 – before the next Prime Minister is announced in late July.
While we recently dissected the six leadership candidates’ recent records on pubs, with the sector facing a range of cost pressures and the looming uncertainty over Brexit, we asked pub operators what they hoped for from the next PM.
Address business rates system
Asked “what do you want the next Prime Minister to do for UK pubs?” on The Morning Advertiser’s Facebook page, operators outlined a range of issues facing the trade and our next leader.
One of the most pressing issues outlined was that of business rates and its appeals system, with Ian Howarth, owner of the Queen’s Head Hotel in Buxton, Derbyshire, commenting: “Assess the business rates model on pubs that currently only assists poor operators. Good ones get penalised. Also abolish BIDs (business improvement districts)”.
Operator Marc Suffolk concurred: “Lower business rates for independent operators.” while Jonathan Spencer of Bill’s Bar Oakham in Leicestershire added: “Reduce VAT for all on-trade food and drink.”
Moreover, Alex Coward of the Alston Pub & Dining in Longridge, Lancashire, added: “Just give us a chance. Inflated pubco pricing policies punishes operators and customers. Pubcos satisfying shareholders with reinvestment policies at the cost of the hard-working operators.”
Credible pubs champion
Gary Murphy of Ye Olde Mitre Inne, Barnet, north London, who launched a crowdfunding campaign to mount a High Court challenge to pubcos and the pubs code adjudicator over the beer tie earlier this year, explained that he’d like to see our next Prime Minister oversee and reshuffle how the sector is managed.
“I would like to see the next Prime Minister appoint a credible pubs champion who understands how the individuality of our pubs brings together and builds communities.
“The person should have dedicated responsibility and wide powers to stop the closures and homogenisation, protect the buildings and interiors, and deliver a fair deal and open market for consumers, all brewers and licensees.”
Preserve community assets
Discussing her hopes for the next Prime Minister, Emily Kolltveit, the Chandos Arms in Colindale, north London, who was part of a group of publicans who delivered the Long Live The Local campaign's petition to cut beer tax to No.10 Downing Street ahead of the Autumn Budget last year, explained: “My hope for a new leader of the UK lies firmly outside of the Conservative party.
“The Tories seem to be made up of a group of people who are overprivileged, lead by their own egos and have no understanding of the people and the country they serve.
“My main agenda for the Chandos Arms over the next couple of years is to work towards a greener pub. I am discussing fitting solar panels to the roof and exploring other ways of creating a more sustainable business that seeks to support the renewal of the environment, rather than continuing to undermine it.
“We are at a crucial moment in the history of the planet and the Government and the big breweries need to have this at the forefront of their decision-making. Any party that puts this agenda at the forefront will have my vote from now on.
“Whoever the next Prime Minister is, should be seeking to preserve our community assets, our pubs, our libraries and our churches. When they are gone, they are gone for good and the impact on those who reply on these enterprises will be devastating.
“We have to understand that growth is not sustainable at the rate required by our capitalist system, the pressure put on pubs by high business rates, beer tax and rising rents is forcing more and more pubs to close and undermining the enthusiasm of those who labour to keep them afloat.
“The life of a publican is growing increasingly more difficult as drinking trends change and austerity starts to eat away at the financial security of our core clientele but the rewards of running a much-loved community pub are so much more than financial and this it what focuses us at the Chandos Arms and spurs us on to new heights.”