Monday 9 March 2015

Temperance cry babies

The Alcohol Health Alliance, the neo-temperance coalition, has been promoting this infographic recently in a desperate bid to stop the government cutting beer duty by one pence.

Just look at this rubbish. Firstly, it directly compares a (dubious and obsolete) £21 billion figure which is largely made up of lost earnings and internal costs with £12 billion of real money that drinkers pay in alcohol duty. If AHA wanted to create a halfway decent comparison of economic costs and benefits, it would either compare the costs to the state (about £6 billion) with the benefits to the state (£12 billion), or it would compare the costs to the wider economy (supposedly £21 billion) with the benefits to the wider economy (£30 billion). For obvious reasons, it does neither.

AHA then refers to a tiny cut in beer duty as a 'tax break to the alcohol industry'. In fact, insofar as it's a tax break for anyone, it's for drinkers, not the industry. I don't have the figures to judge the claims about the equivalent nurses, hospital beds etc. that could be afforded, but they look suspiciously high for a 1p per pint tax cut. I suspect AHA has estimated how much more drinkers would be paying if Osborne hadn't frozen wine and spirits duty. Obviously, a tax freeze is not a tax break.

Finally, it tells us that the price of a pint has risen by 3p in a year. The implication is that the evil booze industry has not only pocketed the 1p but has exploited drinkers with a further 3p increase. Apparently, AHA has never heard of inflation. (But if they really think a 1p cut led to a 3p rise, what are they moaning about? They want higher prices.)

They repeated much of this drivel in a newspaper advert recently and have since been whining on Twitter about having to resort to the mass media...

It jerks on the very strings of your heart, doesn't it?

Look, there is no reason whatsoever why the treasury should want a meeting with a temperance group. The Department of Health, perhaps (and they get plenty of them). But not the treasury. On the other hand, there are lots of reasons why the treasury should want to meet industries, particularly industries which are responsible for very large sums of tax revenue.

As it happens, the government has a particularly good reason for not wanting to meet the Alcohol Health Alliance. Remember this from 2011?

The Coalition Government’s alcohol policy has come under sustained attack by the Institute of Alcohol Studies and other health aligned organisations, which have decided to boycott the Government’s Responsibility Deal with the alcohol industry.

Six alcohol and health organisations, led by the British Medical Association, that had been involved in a Coalition Government policy initiative, the Responsibility Deal for Alcohol (RDA), did their best to wreck its official launch by very publicly walking out of it. In briefings to the media they accused the Deal of being no more than diversion from the evidence-based alcohol policies likely to achieve a real reduction in alcohol harm, such as policies on pricing and availability of alcohol.

The other five organisations are the IAS, Alcohol Concern, the Royal College of Physicians, the British Liver Trust, and the British Association for the Study of the Liver.

"Did their best to wreck its official launch" is not tabloid sensationalism. The text above was written by one of AHA's members at the Institute of Alcohol Studies who was well placed to know what the strategy was.

Here's a little bit of advice for private interest groups who want to influence government policy. If you want to have meetings with government, don't "very publicly walk out" of the meetings you've already been invited to. Don't deliberately "wreck" official launches. Don't throw your toys out of the pram when the government refuses to capitulate to your every demand.

If you can behave like grown ups, maybe you'll be invited back. But if you insist on behaving like arrogant, self-entitled toddlers, don't storm out in a blaze of publicity and then complain that you're not being allowed back in.


Christopher Snowdon said...

Dunno if it's just me, Chris, but this post on the home page has a couple of stray lines of script just below the image that overwrite the post and disappear off the left of the screen.

As for all the dodgy figures from the AHA, it's what we have come to expect from the whiners who want everyone to be as miserable and joyless as they are. Thank heavens the government is ignoring their pathetic bleating. Where the hell do they get their money from? The hapless taxpayer, I guess. I wonder how many hospital bed days, A&E nurses etc could be paid for if all these useless fake charities and lobby groups clamouring for restrictions on tobacco, sugar and alcohol were de-funded and the money redirected to the NHS? They must soak up a tidy sum between them.

Christopher Snowdon said...

Thanks N. Very strange. A weird hangover from the previous post on AHA Ireland. Should be fixed now.

Christopher Snowdon said...

Brilliant bit of shooting themselves in the foot by pointing out that beer has actually become dearer! I look forward to the chorus of wailing a week on Wednesday :D

Christopher Snowdon said...

"Our NHS"?

It isn't my "weaponised" political football. I have absolutely no say in how it is run or what it spends my money on and thus far I have used it only occasionally. Unlike the uber conservative Labour party, I am open minded on health care solutions and have moved on from 1948.

The AHA hark back fondly and inaccurately to an even earlier time, but are no more honest than previous generations of temperance advocates. They are serial liars and any sensible government would do well to steer clear of them.

The same is true of tobacco control advocates but sense appears to desert governments faced with sustained emotional blackmail and public health lies, so if "plain packs" for cigarettes go ahead we can look forward to beer in olive drab glasses with idiotic slogans daubed on them at some future date.