Wednesday, 9 May 2018

A shameless racket

Every public health minister goes native within a few weeks of taking up the job and Steve Brine has been no exception. His Twitter profile picture shows him with ASH's chief prohibitionist Deborah Arnott grinning over his shoulder. It is apt.

Yesterday, he announced that he would be commissioning a review into minimum pricing. The Scottish government has already commissioned its own evaluation, with the usual suspects from Sheffield and Stirling lined up to cash in on their previous efforts lobbying for the policy.

"The previous consultation in 2013 found that the evidence, as it stood at the time, wasn't entirely conclusive," Mr Brine replied.

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"The previous consultation in 2013 found that the evidence, as it stood at the time, wasn't entirely conclusive," Mr Brine replied.

Of course it wasn't bloody conclusive. The evidence has never amounted to anything more than some worthless numerology.

But the Scottish government thought the evidence for minimum pricing was compelling in 2013 - or at least they pretended to - and they weren't alone. As I noted at the time, Public Health England's very first act when it opened its doors in March of that year was to call for minimum pricing...

The new national agency in charge of public health in England has backed proposals to establish a minimum price on a unit of alcohol to try to curb the harmful effects of drinking.

Public Health England, which is set to take on national responsibility for tackling public health challenges from 1 April, said that the available evidence supported the introduction of a minimum price per unit of alcohol and urged the government to use this evidence as its guide, as ministers weigh up whether to implement the measure.

So who's been given the job of evaluating this policy for Steve Brine? I dare say you've already guessed.

"I am commissioning Public Health England to undertake a review of the evidence for minimum pricing in England."

It's not the corruption. I'm used to the corruption. It's how shameless it all is. There is so little attempt to disguise the fact that they are rigging the system and laughing all the way to the bank as they do it.

Not only did PHE support minimum pricing from the very beginning, it reiterated its support in a risible, error-strewn, cherry-picking 'evidence review' in 2016, a piece of work so shoddy that PHE had to retract the press release for it. Based on junk science from Tim Stockwell and junk statistics from Sheffield, PHE concluded:

In summary, empirical evidence and modelling studies have shown that setting a minimum price for alcohol can reduce alcohol-related harm while saving health-care costs.

So of course Public Health England is going to say that minimum pricing is a great idea. They have always said it is a great idea. You might as well get Nicola Sturgeon to evaluate it.

Public Health England is a glorified pressure group and we know for a fact that it is hand in glove with the temperance lobby. Last year I witnessed Rosanna O'Connor, PHE's Director of Alcohol, Drugs & Tobacco, giving evidence to one of Sarah Wollaston's rinky-dink select committees. The anti-drink campaigner Nick Sheron was literally whispering the answers into her ears as she did it. It was pitiful to watch. 

And now these clowns have been commissioned to evaluate minimum pricing in England, just like the Sheffield clowns have been commissioned to evaluate it in Scotland and the anti-sugar clowns have been commissioned to evaluate the sugar tax. This is corruption on the scale of a banana republic and they don't care who knows it. They are laughing in the electorate's face.

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