The perils of demon drinking

First published in Peter Mullen The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

A MINIMUM price of 40p for a unit of alcohol wouldn’t make any difference to the behaviour of the posh, rich types who habitually gargle, guffaw and throw up in the streets of central London.

This used to be confined to Friday nights, and it was possible to tolerate a little craziness once a week. But now it happens almost every night.

There is an odd custom in the City whereby drinkers gather outside pubs, in any weather, from about 5pm and do their boozing on the pavements. I don’t know whether this happens in Darlington, Newcastle or Leeds, but it sure clutters up the rights of way in London.

These pavement boozers – you might say they are the healthy, outdoor types – are not much trouble. They usually have a few and vanish off home by 9pm. No, the disgusting bacchanal takes place later and features those who have been holed up inside the pubs for hours. I dare say I’ve led a sheltered life, but it was shocking to me when I first saw beautiful, exquisitely turned out young women – very well-paid workers from the banks and finance houses – shrieking obscenities, weeping, vomiting and urinating in the ancient thoroughfares of London.

Not my idea of a good night out. Frankly, whenever I down a few I either get harmlessly over-cheerful or I fall asleep. Not in the gutter, you understand. Usually in front of the TV. There’s a critical moment in, say, an episode of Foyle or an old Bette Davis film, when the plot goes all fuzzy. And the next thing I know is that my wife is waking me up to tell me it’s bedtime.

These posh dead drunks in the City can’t be doing it for fun. City people in the know tell me that many of them are desperate and depressed – which must at least cast doubt on the supposition that money is enough to make you happy. And, when they have sobered up, their usual response is to be deeply ashamed of themselves. But it does not stop them doing it again and again.

Putting up the price of booze always penalises the poor. And the poor do not consist mainly of the gangs of drunken yobs who turn our weekend streets into no go areas.

The poor are more widely represented among those who have been out of work for too long.

Or pensioners living quietly and modestly who struggle to afford a drink or two in the evenings. It is not fair to punish these people for the chaos caused by the undisciplined better off. And don’t let’s forget, these unruly better off types include our MPs whose booze in the Commons and Lords bars is subsidised – where only the other week fisticuffs occurred.

I would definitely abolish the subsidy and put up the price for this lot – these hypocrites who only want to increase the price for the rest of us while they themselves enjoy cheap booze.

If we want to discover the cause of public drunkenness, I think we should rather look to the way the granting of permission for licensed premises was removed from the magistrates and handed over to local authorities who have a vested interest because they can charge high rates for pubs, clubs and wine bars.

Besides there is something shifty about the doctors’ professional organisations coming out in support of minimum pricing. Because the definition of someone who drinks too much is one who drinks more than his doctor.

And it was a good doctor who told me that.


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