Thanks for next to nothing, Mr Prime Minister

By Ed Bedington

- Last updated on GMT

Impact of new alcohol duty rules on pubs

Related tags Legislation Beer

The days when Rishi Sunak was viewed as the white knight of the pub trade, riding to the rescue with furlough, VAT cuts, business rates holidays and (maybe) Eat Out To Help Out are now something of a dim and distant memory.

Perhaps in a bid to rekindle that image, or just a desperate attempt to conjure a smidgen of positive PR as his Government collapses in slow motion around him, Rishi took a trip to the Great British Beer Festival this week in a bid to trumpet the support he was giving to the pub sector with his "historical" reform of duty.

If he was expecting to be treated with a chorus of praise and a standing ovation from the grateful masses of brewers, suppliers, pub operators and CAMRA members, he was probably disappointed. In many ways he got off lightly, with only a minor amount of heckling getting past the carefully choreographed entourage.

While the Government is keen to trumpet the one headline figure that the duty on draught beer is now less in pubs than supermarkets, the sad reality is that everything else is up, but let's not let that get in the way of an easy headline on GB News.

The constant insistence that "beer is now cheaper in pubs" from Number 10, does not reflect the reality that for every consumer, that's not the case.

Rampant energy costs which continues to fuel spiralling inflation (take note Bank of England), alongside a refusal to reduce VAT and reform business rates, means the price of that pint is only going one way.

But the punters don't get that, they simply see the Prime Minister telling them beers are getting cheaper, so it must be the pub operator that's ripping them off, right?

And while the duty paid on draught beer in pubs (let's not discuss bottles or off sales shall we) is now less than the duty paid in supermarkets, you can still pick up four cans of a popular brand of lager for less than the cost of one pint in a pub.

Again, not a concept the average consumer understands, or cares to understand.

But Rishi has the Sisyphean task of trying to prop up a Government desperate to cling onto power in anyway possible, and they can't let a little light massaging of the truth stand in the way of that, even if it is, once again, chucking the pub sector under the bus.

Now I know there will be some urging us to embrace the positives and stop focusing on the doom and gloom, and I get that and understand the point, but should this industry really sit back and let a government that has systemically refused to tackle the real underlying issues of the current malaise then use it to try and score political PR points in a bid to try and shore up much needed support?

Isn't that a bit like thanking the school bully for stealing your lunch money?

Related topics Beer

Related news

Show more