I’ve got myself caught up in the seemingly futile battle against the UK Government’s continuing attack on humble beer. The attack seems to be based on the premise that making beer more expensive (i.e. adding more tax to it) will help cover the cost of the ills it does to society. In my mind there are many things wrong with this argument, they have been well addressed by Pete Brown (and here) and CAMRA has some input too, so I won’t repeat here. Today is budget day I’m pretty certain nobody interested in this issue was waiting with baited breath for Osborne to get to the the the matter of beer duty, as expected beer duty will escalate yet again. This is no reason to stop trying – there is always the next budget.
I’ve signed the “Stop The Beer Duty Escalator” petition and emailed my MP asking him to support EDM 2785. Maybe you should too? I’ve even bought some of the Hobgoblin posters promoting the campaign, which I’m distributing to some of my local pubs.
I personalised my email to my MP, Peter Lilley, this is what I wrote:
Dear Mr Lilley,
I’m a local CAMRA member, beer drinker, and regular at a few of my local pubs in Hitchin. Some of the pubs in my area are having trouble, some have shut down, they’re squeezed from so many directions that life is becoming more difficult for landlords by the day.
I do not – nor have the time to – understand all the details about the beer duty escalator or the EDM in question, but I trust CAMRA and the wider beer industry’s advice that supporting EDM 2785 is a good thing for our pubs.
As an Australian living in the UK (I’ve been resident here for about 6 years) I feel compelled to support the British “local”. It is something unique and worth taking care of – a community hub, a place to meet people (it is in local pubs that my OH and I have met most of our non-work community of friends), even a place for business & professional networking. Good pub goers can do their best to help their locals by using them – “use it or loose it” has become a common mantra, but people can only sensibly drink so much and really are being driven out by the cost of a pint.
I’m a full time employee in a professional industry so the cost doesn’t bother me too much personally, but most of the locals keeping my favourite local pub alive are labourers, van drivers, etc, or retired – many of them are earning less now than they were 4 years ago. The price of a pint in my local has gone up 60p since we’ve been in town (less than 4 years) and some people really have stopped drinking in the pub as a result. This doesn’t mean they have stopped drinking, in fact I met one of them the other day drinking a can of lager in a nearby park. He wasn’t drunk, it was his first drink of the evening, he had picked it up for 60p from the supermarket to get one in before going to the pub because he could only afford a couple of pints at pub prices (£3.20+). EDM 2785 won’t reduce this price, but it might mean that folk like this will keep drinking a couple of pints with their friends at their local rather than resorting to supermarket beer (or worse) at home – or in the park for that matter. This helps keep the local alive so that both they and I can continue to enjoy the facility it provides.
All the best,
The story about the bloke in the park is not made up – this sort of thing is REALLY HAPPENING. The bloke in question, who I don’t know all that well, is a pretty sensible drinker from what I’ve seen. He has a few pints while playing his darts then heads home. Though I haven’t seen much of him lately, a loss for the pub in my opinion.
The day after I sent the message above I received this response
Thank you for contacting Peter Lilley. Mr Lilley understands your concerns on this mattter and has already taken up the issues raised on behalf of other consstituents of his and will be in touch as soon as he receives a reply. However, the Deputy Speaker has warned Members that Early Day Motions are in danger of losing all credibility as they are being signed indiscriminately. Mr Lilley, therefore, makes it his practice to sign only those which relate specifically to his constituency or with which he has been personally involved.
Constituency Secretary to the Rt Hon Peter Lilley MP
This is pretty much exactly the same as what I saw published as a response from Peter Lilley [pdf - page 2] in our local CAMRA newsletter around budget time last year. (Except in my case they appear to have not bothered with the spell checker.) I only found the Pints of View reference because I did a search about the issue of EDMs loosing their credibility, our local newsletter was the top link. I’m wondering how credible the issue of them loosing their credibility is? Are they actually credible anyway? I don’t know… I’m new to UK politics.
I worry that Peter probably doesn’t really care much about pushing anything but his own personal agenda. He holds an extremely safe seat and from what I’ve seen barely bothers to campaign at election time – I’m not sure how these things work, but it looks like the seat was specifically created for him. Anyway, Peter Lilley’s recent EDM activity is mostly concerned with euthanasia and immigration/border control – though I’m glad to see signed the Fish Fight EDM (probably just for the PR I suppose). None of this is specifically related to his constituency, so making that statement in the boilerplate response seems pointless.
In turn, I’ve responded to the response with this:
Thankyou for your reply.
I would put it forward that the plight of the British pub is of importance to all constituencies. All communities stand to loose out from the ongoing closure of public houses. Especially in the countryside and our smaller villages, where residents stand to loose their only social meeting places.
I’m interested to see if I get any further response that isn’t a boilerplate standard reply.
In the meantime, please sign the petition (it takes near to no time) and email your MP if they haven’t already signed the EDM and you’re feeling eager (also next to no time if you use the CAMRA standard email, but I do recommend adding a personal note of your own).
I’m left with one lingering concern though: if the Save-the-NHS folk failed, then what hope do we have?