Tuesday 3 June 2014

Eric Joyce on the noble lie

The great politician and pugilist Eric Joyce has written about Alcohol Concern and the way that 'good cause lobbyists' bend the truth...

This week, the media noted that over the last three years, the purchase cost of alcohol sold at the Houses of Parliament increased by a little over 10%. In parliament, alcohol is consumed by 650 MPs, 763 Lords, thousands of staff and tens of thousands of visitors. In one way and another, the articles implied that alcohol consumption at Westminster had gone up. Wahey. In every piece I’ve seen, though, the writer has been careful to note that in truth the increase in purchase cost is likely to be accounted for by the increase in prices, not an increase in consumption. There’s nothing wrong or contradictory about this. Readers like a good, light, anti-politician story, but they also know how much alcohol prices have gone up each year, because of course they buy alcohol themselves and are not stupid.


A couple of days ago, I read this piece in the Daily Express... The thing about the article which immediately struck me is that Alcohol Concern, a ‘good cause’ lobbying organisation who say in their website they want to ‘make sense of alcohol’, was quoted as follows;

“It’s disappointing that Parliament isn’t leading by example, instead alcohol consumption continues to increase.

I wrote to Alcohol Concern and asked why it had given such a weird quote claiming increased consumption when it seems patently untrue – certainly un-evidenced. ‘Interim Chief Executive’ Eric Appleby, who’d been given as the source, wrote back. His reply, didn’t make much sense and included this classic of its genre:

“the niceties as to whether a 10% increase in spending represents an equivalent rise in consumption is frankly irrelevant”.

So there it is. If you come across lobbyist Alcohol Concern, remember that it literally regards truth and falsity as “niceties” and “irrelevant”. Jesus wept.

He goes on to write about the use of the 'noble lie' by well-funded do-gooder fake charities. Do read the whole thing.

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