Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Friday, 11 September 2009

One for the Road to Perdition?

Poacher turned gamekeeper Frank Skinner has launched a vehement and interesting attack on alcohol consumption in today’s Times. As one might expect from a former problem drinker, he insists that Britain has a dependency culture and that intervention is essential:

"the BMA should forget about cosmetic changes, such as banning advertising and happy hours, drop the niceties, come down at least as hard as it did on tobacco and say what needs to be said: alcohol is a dangerous drug dressed up as a warm and reassuring companion."

Of course, coming down hard on tobacco hasn’t exactly stamped out smoking, as a walk down my local high street will amply demonstrate. In fact, I should hazard a guess that the same people whose alcohol consumption gives cause for concern are those whose health is being undermined by their smoking and eating habits.

Here in the tavern we are generally as politically neutral as possible (saves arguments with the regulars) but should Mr Skinner turn up for a lime juice, we might find ourselves getting in touch with our inner libertarians:

"We can’t trust the people to decide for themselves because their dependency — often not readily apparent and so easily denied — obviously clouds their judgment. We need the BMA to provide impetus for a great national sobering-up."

Nobody would deny that there are serious alcohol-related problems in this country and that there is a risk that excessive consumption is seen as normal. However, to suggest that we are all, to some extent, alcohol-dependent and in need of regulation is rather too like the prescription of statins for all because some people are overweight.

If Frank Skinner does drop into the Tavern, I sincerely hope Ambush Predator will turn up for a chat; the ensuing debate should be well worth watching.


  1. Heh! I doubt he'd buy me a gin and tonic, though I'd be happy to buy him a bitter. To match his personality...

    "As one might expect from a former problem drinker.."

    Is he? Oh, well. Aren't they always the worst?

  2. To be fair, he's quite up-front about how bad his drinking was. The trouble is that, having been an alcoholic himself, he doesn't seem to see any middle ground; you're either stone-cold sober or intoxicated.


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