According to a snap poll by YouGov following Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson’s debate in front of ITV’s cameras on 19 November, 51% of viewers believed the Prime Minister won the election campaign’s first televised exchanges compared to 49% who gave the Labour leader the nod.
Interestingly, the pub industry seems similarly split by the Labour and Conservative candidates to be the next prime minister.
A Twitter poll conducted by The Morning Advertiser (MA) following the debate found that when asked ‘who would you trust to understand and safeguard the interests of UK pubs as prime minister more?’ 51% of respondents sided with Johnson compared to 49% who opted for Corbyn.
Steps in the right direction
As reported by MA, the Conservative party has vowed to protect Britain’s ailing towns and communities with a swathe of measures, including slashing business rates for pubs.
Additionally, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his party would commit to re-assessing alcohol duty in a bid to encourage UK drinks producers’ sales and exports.
Responding to the launch of the Conservative party manifesto on 24 November, UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls commented: “Employment costs, property taxes and skills are key challenges for hospitality if it is to add yet more economic value and employment to the UK.
“A fundamental review of business rates is long overdue. A commitment to cut the rates bills is certainly welcome and it is heartening to see pubs and music venues referenced in the context of reliefs – we wait with interest to hear further detail.
“Alongside previously announced National Infrastructure Commission changes to improve take home pay, this manifesto also commits to improving the apprenticeship levy system and wider initiatives and funds for upskilling. It seems that our messages have been heard.
“We also welcome the manifesto’s inclusion of community ownership proposals, including for pubs, but the focus must primarily be to create an operating environment that bypasses the need for bail outs for hospitality venues.
“These are all steps in the right direction but there is much more still to be done to empower hospitality yet further as an economic driver of prosperity, jobs and growth.”
Boris Johnson’s pub record
Shortly after being appointed Foreign Secretary in 2016, Johnson was voted the politician most trusted to run a pub, with almost a fifth (22%) of those surveyed by YouGov on behalf of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) claiming they would trust him with their business.
Most of the Prime Minister’s recent engagements with the on-trade occurred while he was Mayor of London between May 2008 and May 2016. He has never been required to vote on demanding pub companies offer rent-only leases in parliament, for example, and has generally voted for higher taxes on alcoholic drinks and pledged to review ‘sin taxes’ such as sugar in his campaign to become leader of the Conservative party.
In a strategic plan, published in March 2015, Johnson pledged to help London’s 33 local authorities to protect valued pubs – representing the first time the role of the capital’s pubs was recognised in the London Plan. He also backed the ‘agent-of-change’ principle in an attempt to protect London’s live music venues.
Jeremy Corbyn and pubs
According to a piece written by The Morning Advertiser in September 2015, teetotaller Corbyn has, broadly speaking, put his name to parliamentary business that is against large pub companies, and has been a signatory for motions supporting licensees, music in pubs and community pubs in general.
According to TheyWorkForYou.com – Corbyn has always voted in favour of requiring pub companies to offer operators rent-only leases – registering three votes in favour between 2013 and 2016.
What’s more, the Labour leader voted consistently in favour of smoking bans between 1999 and 2015, registering nine votes for, one vote against and two absences and has, on the 22 occasions on which he’s been required to vote on raising alcoholic drink taxes, cast three votes in favour, 20 votes against with four absences.
Labour manifesto launch
Unveiled on 21 November, the Labour party’s manifesto outlined plans to list pubs as assets of community value so community groups could buy local pubs under threat of closing, replace business rates with a land value tax, introduce four new bank holidays celebrating the four patron saints’ days, review the evidence on the effect of minimum unit pricing of alcohol and label alcoholic drinks with “clear health warnings”.
“The Labour party has rightly noted in its manifesto that too many pubs are closing,” Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said of Labour’s manifesto.
“When it comes to community pubs, what is needed is investment and support. It is important that measures to bolster the rights of individual communities to purchase pubs do not act as a disincentive to invest in or operate a pub business.
“Given that seven in 10 alcoholic drinks sold in a pub are beer, the most direct way of keeping pubs viable remains a cut in beer duty. This would answer the call of the 220,000 people who have signed the Long Live the Local petition calling on the next Chancellor to cut beer duty, supporting local pubs and the communities they serve. A further 109,000 people have also written to their MP calling on them to support pubs by cutting beer tax, showing the strength of feeling on the matter, which the next Government must recognise.
“The current business rates system is hugely unfair on pubs – they pay 2.8% of the business rates bill, despite accounting for just 0.5% of turnover. A complete overhaul of the existing system is required, but at this stage it is not clear if Labour’s land value tax will directly help pubs.
“Additional bank holidays will hopefully be a boost for the pub trade and could be done in tandem with extended hours to give a further uplift.
“Minimum unit pricing (MUP) should be carefully evaluated before a proposal is considered in England. Particularly as it has only been in place in Scotland for just over a year.
“As an industry, we already clearly label our products with health information including alcohol units and ABV, as well as signposting to Drinkaware where the full guidance on low risk drinking can be found.”
Lib Dem manifesto
Unveiled by their leader under the slogan ‘Stop Brexit Build A Brighter Future’ on 21 November, the Liberal Democrats pledged to review the UK excise duty structure to better support whisky exports, replace business rates in England with a commercial landowner levy based solely on the land value of commercial sites rather than their entire capital value and introduce MUP for alcohol, taking note of the impact of the policy in Scotland in their manifesto.
Discussing their pledges, McClarkin said: “Any review of UK alcohol taxation must include beer – a lower-strength, British-made product.
“Beer tax is a particular burden for pubs because seven out of 10 alcoholic drinks sold in them are beer and we pay 11 times more beer duty than Spain or Germany.
“With three pubs a day closing their doors for good, cutting or freezing beer duty as part of a review of UK alcohol taxation is essential. This would answer the call of the 220,000 people who have signed the Long Live the Local petition calling on the next Chancellor to cut beer duty, supporting local pubs and the communities they serve.
“A complete overhaul of the existing system is required, but at this stage it is not clear if the Liberal Democrats’ commercial landowner levy will directly help pubs.”