Friday 12 May 2017

Labour wonders why pubs have been closing

The Labour Party's draft manifesto was leaked yesterday. It contains this gem...

We will set up a National Review of Local Pubs to examine the causes for the large-scale demise of pubs

Gee, I wonder what could be behind the 'large-scale demise of pubs'?  Perhaps we could start by looking at the Labour Party's 2005 manifesto which said:

We will legislate to ensure that all enclosed public places and workplaces other than licensed premises will be smoke-free. The legislation will ensure that all restaurants will be smoke-free; all pubs and bars preparing and serving food will be smoke-free; and other pubs and bars will be free to choose whether to allow smoking or to be smoke-free. In membership clubs the members will be free to choose whether to allow smoking or to be smoke-free.

The manifesto pledge to provide exemptions for wet pub and clubs was broken when ASH collaborated with Labour rebels to get smoking banned in all pubs and clubs.

A total ban on smoking in all English pubs appeared to be drawing closer tonight, after rebel MPs tabled an amendment demanding that the government's proposed partial ban be made comprehensive. 

We all know what happened next. The UK got one of the world's most draconian smoking bans, pub attendance fell and beer sales went into freefall. As The Guardian reported in January 2008...

Pub beer flattened by smoking ban

The number of pints served in Britain's pubs and bars in the run-up to the busy festive period declined by almost 10% as chilly smokers, no longer allowed a cigarette inside a pub, cut short their drinking time or stayed at home.

In the first winter since the UK-wide ban on smoking in public places was imposed in July, pub beer consumption for November fell 9.7% against the same period in 2006, according to industry figures.

Pubs have never recovered. 11,000 of them closed between 2007 and 2013. Only the most deluded or dishonest anti-smoking campaigner pretends that the smoking ban hasn't hammered the hospitality industry.

It seems unlikely that Jeremy Corbyn will ever be in a position to commission a government review of pub closures. As someone who 'consistently voted for smoking bans', it's safe to assume that he would ignore the elephant in the room even if he did.

There seems to be a reasonable chance that the Labour government that banned smoking in pubs is the last Labour government Britain will ever have. Tony Blair resigned just days before the legislation came into force in 2007. If so, the final 'up yours' to the working class that the smoking ban represented would be a fitting bookend for a party that was once on the side of ordinary people.

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