Posts tagged ‘alcohol’

MPs drink ‘to point of oblivion’, official warns

A parliamentary culture of heavy drinking can see MPs “drinking to the point of oblivion” the person responsible for security and keeping order within the Commons has admitted as he faced calls to scrap subsidised drink in parliamentary bars.

The Serjeant at Arms told an MPs committee the Government should do more to rein in a boozing culture within Parliament.

He also faced calls to end cut price alcohol in parliamentary after one MP complained she had once been charged only £1 for a treble gin and tonic while in the Strangers’ Bar.

Mr Ward told the Administration Committee he was not a “killjoy” and recognised people with stressful jobs needed to let their hair down.

However he said: “I am not convinced that we couldn’t do more about the culture of drinking in Parliament,”

“I’m not some killjoy. But sometimes there has been an attitude in the past that it was acceptable, as part of that de-stressing process, to all go out and consume vast amounts of alcohol as part of that camaraderie and that letting down of the hair.

“There is nothing wrong with some of that, but the levels of drinking to the point of oblivion and all the rest of it is a culture which I don’t welcome in any workforce.

“The incidence of binge drinking, the quantities of alcohol, across society are beginning to diminish. I would hope that would be the same in Parliament.”

His concerns had been heightened by the actions of the MP for Falkirk, Eric Joyce.

He told MPs “There were many things in that incident that concerned me. One of them, quite clearly, the culture of heavy drinking.”

Madeleine Moon MP said ending the “high level of subsidy” enjoyed at parliamentary bars would help to curb drinking.

She said she got the “fright of my life” when she was charged only £1 for a treble gin and tonic when setting foot in the Strangers’ Bar two years ago.

The Institute for Employment Studies (IES) has been tasked by the Serjeant at Arms with finding ways to cut problem drinking in parliament – and its report is due later this year.

A parliamentary spokesman said: “Much like wider society, MPs accept that the moderate consumption of alcohol can be part of life.

“However, we always encourage sensible drinking and have a number of programmes designed to raise awareness and prevent alcohol misuse.”

Advice on the dangers of excessive drinking forms part of wider initiatives to encourage a healthy lifestyle among MPs, officials indicated.

Cheap drink and/or food is available to MPs and staffers in all parliamentary bars and restaurants and is subsidised.

NB: Some of the details of this story may have been changed.

Alcohol Concern: Still a fake charity

The new year brings with it the plaintive sound of the begging bowl being rattled once again by fake-charity Alcohol Concern in the form of Dry January.

Personally I have no plans to ever stop drinking for an entire month if I can avoid it so will instead be an enthusiastic participant of Drinkuary. No doubt the beer and wine I picked up from Waitrose on Monday will come in handy!

Given that the temperance lobby are going to be all over sections of the media like a cheap suit, it would seem like a good time to take a look at the 2013 accounts for Alcohol Concern – conveniently filed with the Charity Commission barely three weeks ago.

Alcohol Concern’s total income for the year ending 31st March 2013 was £1,028,828. This breaks down into £765,890 in voluntary income (grants, donations etc), £260,449 from operating activities (consultancy, training etc) and £489 in interest.¹

The voluntary income is, as always, the interesting bit. In the 2012/13 financial year Alcohol Concern received grants from the following:²

Name (£) Amount
Welsh Assembly Government 225,626
Department for Education (DfE) 222,298
Comic Relief 106,398
Tudor Trust 50,000
Esmee Fairburn 40,000
Trust for London 29,976

That’s a total of £674,298 from third-party organisations (2 governmental, 4 charitable) and only £91,592 in ‘Donations & Sundry Receipts’. In percentage terms:

Grouping Amount (£) % of Voluntary Income % of All Income
Totals: 765,890 100 74.44
Governmental 447,924 58.48 43.54
Other Charities* 226,374 29.56 22.00
Donations 91,592 11.96 8.90

43.54% of all of Alcohol Concern’s income is provided to them by thee and I via the taxes the government levies on us for having the temerity to earn a living and consume things. Less than 9% of their income comes via ‘Donations & Sundry Receipts’ – for which no further breakdown is provided so it may hide a multitude of sins.

Alcohol Concern still fit the Devil’s definition of a fake-charity, me thinks.

¹ Page 15
² Page 18
* Investigation of the finances of these charities to determine how much of their income is via the taxpayer is required.

This is not just any kerfuffle, it’s an M&S one

The Grand Dame of the British high street has had its fair share of problems over recent years, mostly revolving around lacklustre sales of its womenswear, but on Sunday it found itself at the eye of a storm about what goods its cashiers will or won’t handle.

As first reported by the Torygraph on Saturday evening:

Muslim staff working for Marks & Spencer have been given permission to refuse to serve customers buying alcohol or pork products.

I will not profess to be an expert but my understanding was that they are not supposed to consume said items and that there was nothing about handling packaging which may container the verboten produce.

If this were an official policy for checkout staff then I see a passing bandwagon for other groups to jump on, viz:

  • Jews: pork products & shellfish
  • Vegetarians: meat products
  • Teetotalers and recovering alcoholics: booze
  • Non- and anti-smokers: tobacco products
  • Misandrists: men
  • Misogynists: women
  • Racists: people of other skin tones

And so on for as many silly situations that you can think of*.

Obviously such a range of policies would need to be indicated to the customer so instead of the ’10 items of fewer’ sign, there will have to be an electronic display above each aisle with symbols indicating what the cashier won’t deign to touch.

Imagine the chaos – especially when someone misreads or ignores the sign.

Yes, OK, I’ve gone a bit reductio ad absurdum and there is, of course, a simpler solution: either tell the member of staff not to be so daft (which would no doubt land you in front of an employment tribunal on charges of ‘discrimination’) or put them to work in a different department (easier for a large corporate entity than a cornershop).**

By Sunday evening, M&S had backtracked saying:

“…it works closely with employees with specific beliefs that restrict what food or drink they can handle, but on this occasion it had to ‘regret’ that it had not followed its own guidelines.

“Where we have an employee whose religious beliefs restrict food or drink they can handle, we work closely with our member of staff to place them in suitable role, such as in our clothing department or bakery in foods.

“We regret that in the case highlighted today we were not following our own internal policy.”

No doubt said employee’s manager will be getting an earful – if they haven’t already.

*Matt Syson on the Boycott Marks and Spencer pushes beyond absurdity into stupidity though by asking if workers who wish to refuse the sale of ladies garments to male homosexuals or men’s trousers to lesbians will be tolerated. Quite how you can work out whether the customer is gay or lesbian whilst you are selling them goods is a mystery to me but if Matt can then Kuwait would like to hear from him.

**I’m ignoring the third option of ‘not working for a company which sells products you have a problem with’ since that requires people to take some responsibility for themselves – and I’m almost certain that such a thing is illegal these days.

Drink-uary!

The revelry is over, the new year finally under way, the hangovers dealt with and the time to reel in the drinking has arrived (although, obviously not, if you have a public holiday on Jan 2nd to get over the 1st).

But wait, what horror this way comes? Ah, I see it now… it is a cash-strapped fake-charity frantically tying to hitch themselves to the bandwagon of the post-festive drying out period in an attempt to raising money to keep themselves on the hamster-wheel of puritanical lobbying.

For those who are, about now, wondering if I wrote this whilst slowly pickling myself in a large vat of Christmas sherry I shall explain.

In October 2011, Alcohol Concern (the aforementioned fake-charity), lost a lot of their funding after the government decided not to give them any more money stolen from the taxpayer. Whilst for many of us this is a cause for celebration and much merriment, Alcohol Concern weren’t too amused.

Desperate to raise some cash in order to continue to pump out dodgy statistics and lobby ministers and civil serpents in the Department of Health, our penniless puritans came up with what they must have thought was a great wheeze: a sponsored Dry January. What could be more fun than staying off of the sauce and raising money for an organisation which exists simply to hector you about your drinking? That’s a rhetorical question, obviously.

The forces of light are not, thankfully, letting this pass uncontested and by the good offices of Anonymong we have a more useful January idea: Drinkuary.

Drinkuary is a quiet counter argument to Alcohol Concern’s “Dry January”. Alcohol Concern want you to not have a drink for the whole month and raise money for them whilst you do so, I don’t care one way or another if you drink or not. I do care that tax funded charities and health organisations feel compelled to tell us how to live our lives.

Although the whole shebang is now under way there is an “official” launch party this coming Sunday (January 6th) at The Silver Cross, 33 Whitehall, Whitehall, London, SW1A 2BX from 1400.

MG will be in attendance and no doubt a number of fellow bloggers will be there for a lemonade or two.

Pass the bottle

According to the clowns at fake charity Alcohol Concern, today marks that start of Alcohol Awareness Week.

As a responsible drinker, I consider it my duty to be very much aware of how much alcohol I have available to me at any one moment – as well as where the nearest licensed premises is. Currently at home I have:

  • 28 beers
  • 5 bottles of red wine
  • 2 70cl bottles of vodka
  • 1 35cl bottle of Jack Daniel’s
  • 1 bottle of Cava
  • 2 0.2cl bottles of Rotkäppchen*

I think that is enough to get me through the next week.

This is what they mean by being alcohol aware, isn’t it?

* I have no idea how, why, when or where these came into my possession. I suspect alcohol was involved.

Crawling out of the woodwork

Australia’s crusade to make their country more attractive to smugglers whilst trying to stop people using the product of the tobacco plant continues with the news that, as of now, people entering the country will only be allowed to bring in two packs of smokes under duty-free rules. Bring in anything more and you have a choice (ha!) between having your cigarettes stolen or your wallet looted.

Moving (physically although not spiritually) away from the convicts, it appears that the recent antics of the tobacco control fools in Tasmania has led to their real goal becoming more and more transparent – not that it was well disguised to the more realistic members of the proletariat.

Whilst it is perhaps no surprise that the government of Singapore* is considering a similar legislation to Tasmania, it seems that the Finns are also thinking about it as well. To someone who hasn’t kept as close eye as some on the tobacco control lobby this was more surprising but some googling reveals that Finland is something of an early adopter when it comes to controlling tobacco.

Lest however you think that this mania is just something Johnny Foreigner is getting himself worked up about, news emerges of something closer to home:

GUERNSEY is set to demonstrate ‘similarly bold measures’ to a potential ban on cigarette sales to anyone born after the year 2000, the Guernsey Adolescent Smokefree Project chairman has said.

GASP (how original!) is, I’m sure you’ll be shocked to hear, at least partly funded by the Guernsey taxpayer

This silliness though isn’t just confined to a group of islands too close to France for their own good.

Senior doctors and anti-smoking campaigners have told Sky News they are working towards making the UK a no smoking nation within the next 20 years.

Leading specialist Professor John Britton has called on the Government to back the goal, describing it as entirely realistic.

“Andrew Lansley could make himself a legacy greater than that of almost any other Health Secretary in history,” Professor Britton, who chairs the Royal College of Physicians Tobacco Advisory Group, said.

Yes folks, things have come so far in recent times that the ultimate goal of the tobacco control lobby is now openly admitted to after so many years of pretending otherwise whilst they incrementally shifted the goal posts just that little bit closer to their destination with the passing of each piece of dictatorial legislation.

I would say that alcohol will be next but that campaign, along with the one against the wrong types of food, has been underway for a while.

Forget the various bastardisations of the Pastor Niemoller quote, they have (unless you are a non-smoking, teetotaller who has never eaten anything unhealthy in your life) already come for you. Do you fight as they drag you off for re-education or do you meekly surrender and become the drone that they want you to be?

* Pretty much a dictatorship in all but name.

Prohibition in Australia

With the ink barely dry on the High Court ruling confirming that their national government can suppress any intellectual property that they disagree with, politicians in the Australian state of Tasmania have decided that they aren’t satisfied with this (quelle surprise!) and are now considering prohibition.

The daft draft proposal, which was passed unanimously by members of the Upper House of the Tasmanian legislature, doesn’t however apply to everyone mind – just those born in the 21st century:

The Tasmanian Government is considering ruling out banning tobacco sales to people born after 2000, in the wake of a vote in the state’s Upper House last night.

Legislative Council member Ivan Dean wants to make it illegal for people born after 2000 to buy tobacco once they turn 18 – meaning they would never legally be able to buy cigarettes.

[…]

“This would mean that we would have a generation of people not exposed to tobacco products,” Mr Dean said.

“It would be easier for retailers to enforce because when they ask for ID, all they would need to see if the person was born after the year 2000.

“Young people are more likely to give cigarettes to more young people.

“As the generation reaches 18 years, there will be fewer of them smoking and while some of those first turning 18 might smoke, as time goes on fewer and fewer will.”

Aside from wondering what the two Chambers of Commerce of which Dean is a member of will think of this extra imposition on their trade, I honestly don’t know where to begin in pointing out the absurdities of this pathetic – and frankly unenforceable – idea. Thankfully however Chris Snowdon has done it for me, concluding:

Nowhere in this article is there any suggestion that grown adults — now or in the future — might have the right to buy and smoke tobacco if they want to. It’s a sort of “think of the children even when they are no longer children” argument, which is fitting since Australian politicians clearly see the whole population as children and themselves as—what other word can there be?—nannies.

I have increasingly come to believe that the worst thing about Australia is that it is not far enough away.

Given that the anti-smoking lobby simply will not stop, even if they manage to achieve their wet dream of total and complete prohibition on tobacco and have rendered the tobacco plant utterly extinct across the entire planet, no matter what the cost, I’m of the increasing opinion that Leg-Iron was right when he said:

What I would do in response to this insanity is this:

Withdraw from the Australian market entirely.

No imports. None. No business going through the docks or the airports. Close all factories and warehouses and distribution points in Australia. Cut all ties to any tobacco-selling business in the entire country. Drop the whole country off the business map.

It’s what the short-sighted fools in the anti-smoking lobby want but, as he points out, I’m not sure they will like the results: lower amounts of money raised in tax, increased unemployment as those directly and indirectly employed by the industry lose their jobs, and a massive black market.

With alcohol being but the next target on the prohibitionist campaigners list, it might even make them think twice about what they are doing, especially if the two major breweries in the country – Foster’s Group and Lion Nathan – threatened to follow suit.

I doubt it though.

The enemy has another face

Cllr John Butcher, Conservative, Surrey County Councillor

Meet Councillor John Butcher, a Conservative member of Surrey County Council and the latest little Hitler to emerge from the cesspit which the health fascists inhabit.

Cllr Butcher believes that if you live in Surrey and you fall ill with something which could be related to smoking, drinking, drug use or excessive weight you should be treated as a second class citizen by the NHS – pushed to the back of the queue in favour of the ‘more virtuous’.

Such a policy would, he believes, encourage people who fall into the ‘unworthy’ camp out of the county, reducing the burden on Surrey NHS.

If the NHS in Surrey were to be run on the basis that patients with self-inflicted morbidity (mainly – smoking, alcohol, narcotics, obesity) and injury (dangerous activities) are, following due warning, placed in a much slower-moving queue for healthcare than ‘other’ patients, this would encourage the self-inflicted to move away from Surrey, to areas where there is no differentiation between patients on the grounds of their contribution towards their condition.

“And it would deter the self-inflicted from coming to live in Surrey. Over time, that would result in the healthcare for the ‘other’ patients in Surrey being significantly better than the average national level for all patients, as the resources deployed to the self-inflicted would be very much reduced.

“Eventually the self-inflicted patients would end up living in ‘equality’ areas that are dominated by politicians who pander to their needs, thus driving more ‘other’ patients out of those areas, as healthcare there will be badly affected by the over-dominance of the self-inflicted.

“Eventually the country will be sharply divided into two types of area: the ‘equality’ ones, where the self-inflicted unhealthy are treated the same as all patients, and the ‘others’, such as, hopefully, Surrey.

“Average life expectancy will be substantially lower (by, say, 20 years) in the ‘equality’ areas.”

A few thoughts immediately spring to mind:

  1. As a general rule, the older people are, the more use they tend to make of the NHS as their bodies break down. The biggest of these costs will be cancers and dementia/Alzheimer’s.
  2. By dying at younger age, heavy smokers, drinkers, drug users and the terminally obese usually end up being net contributors to the system via taxes paid.
  3. Those who can afford private healthcare – or who have it via their employer – will use this to bypass the NHS bureaucracy and thus avoid the slow-queue. Get enough people doing this and private healthcare in Surrey will become a growth market.

With this in mind, I’m not sure Cllr Butcher will get quite the result he was looking for when he started his spleen vent.

But wait, there is more. Given the opportunity to defend his lunacy, he makes the most of it and plants his other foot right in next to the first one.

Firstly, he doesn’t think his proposals should apply to the addicted:

I need to make it clear that, under my proposals, a condition would not be regarded as ‘self-inflicted’ if the patient is unable to prevent the condition, as is the case with an addict, even if he or she was able to have done that before addiction set in.

Which rather leaves those of us who enjoy our vices in moderate-to-heavy doses but don’t need them as a crutch squarely in the firing line…

Still, he isn’t finished yet:

3 Alcohol and narcotics abuse also need to be tackled with other policies, that are aimed at prevention and discouragement. There is, generally in society, an amazing level of toleration of such abuse, especially by persons in positions of public responsibility and influence. If sports can ban performance-enhancing drug use, then entertainment etc. should ban narcotics and alcohol abuse. By setting a firm example from the top, the message will soon get around that such abuse is unacceptable – with enormous benefits to society.

3.1 Everyone in, or aspiring to, a position of public responsibility and everyone in a position to influence the public, including entertainers etc, should be asked to sign a voluntary pledge not to take illegal narcotics or consume excessive alcohol, or drive when so affected.

3.2 Anyone who fails to sign that pledge, or who signs it and breaches it, should be excluded from positions of public responsibility and influence. All public organisations, included regulated broadcasters etc, should agree to impose this exclusion.

3.3 There would be a Trust to manage this pledge and to determine breaches, with a right of appeal. The costs of running it would be funded by fees from signatories, donations from philanthropists and a grant from the government – the grant being greatly exceeded by the savings in cost to the Exchequer, due to the substantial reduction in such abuse that will follow.

*boggles*

Sports ban performance-enhancing drugs because they create an unequal playing field, elevating one person above another not because of skill or stamina but because of chemical engineering. I’m not sure how you can think that narcotics and alcohol* consumption would be in any way performance-enhancing in fields which are not directly competitive.

He calls his proposal of a pledge to not overdo it a voluntary one, yet in the very next paragraph says that anyone who doesn’t sign it or who breaches it should be penalised by being banned from ‘positions of public responsibility and influence’. Obviously some policing this ‘voluntary’ pledge will be necessary so he proposes that this can be done by the formation of an organisation funded by theft, aka compulsory subscriptions, taxpayer money and ‘charitable’ donations. He doesn’t mention who the big white chief of this new quango should be but I’m willing I’d bet he’d have his eye on it should such a monstrosity ever come to pass.

In conclusion I can only assume that John Butcher is a brainwashed, non-smoking teetotaller who has never had a day of fun in his whole life which is why he appears to take so much pleasure in being a tediously boring and self-righteous control freak who, quite frankly, should just piss off and leave us all alone.

* Though there are no doubt a number of sportsmen and women out there who will claim that they play better after a drink or three. :)

A drink free university?

University. A place to study and – in many, many cases – a place where you find yourself drinking until your liver begs for mercy. Of course, you don’t have to but many do and probably every campus in the country has a subsidised bar or three which will sells gallons of cheap, nasty lager as well as plenty of other alcoholic products on a nightly basis. And if you fancy something which isn’t watered down then there are no doubt plenty of licensed establishments close by.

At the university I attended there were, as I remember, a total of two places on campus which sold booze (both within the union building) and no shortage of places which didn’t – including much of the union. Assuming that this is not an uncommon arrangement, I am somewhat befuddled therefore as to why the vice-chancellor of London Metropolitan University*, one Prof. Malcolm Gillies, is

…considering banning the sale of alcohol from some parts of the campus because a “high percentage” of students consider drinking “immoral”

Unless London Met is different from what I experienced, the vast majority of the campus – including the refectories – will not be used for the selling of alcohol. Indeed I’m almost certain that it is possible to do everything a student might wish to do, with the possible exception of consuming alcohol, without setting foot in that small percentage of floorspace where the sale of alcohol is permitted.

So, who are these students that the good professor claims to be speaking for? The clue it seems is in the make-up of the student body: one fifth are Muslim and most of that 20% are women.

Oh, and as he admits himself he is

…not a great fan of alcohol on campus.

Therefore I see two possibilities here

  1. the professor is using the Muslims as an excuse to enact up his prohibitionist tendencies, or
  2. the Muslims have found a willing ally in promoting their wishes.

and in the crazy world of prohibition and cultural appeasement in which we live, either option is possible and Alaa Alsamarrai, the vice-president of student affairs for the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS), was quick to jump on the passing bandwagon:

“We want our universities and unions to be inclusive – where students from all walks of life can come together and share experiences.

“Alcohol is a barrier to many Muslim students participating in freshers events and often in society activities – so we’re in support of moves to have some alcohol-free zones and events.

“Though if a student wants to drink in their lifestyle, we of course don’t want to ban that.”

How nice of him to include that last line…

Yes, students drink but unless you are joining those groups which specifically include the consumption of alcohol (wine, beer etc societies) then I don’t think anyone will care if you aren’t a drinker – even the Athletic Union will more than likely tolerate a teetotaller in their midst if you are any good.

Understandably the idea didn’t go down well with the University’s Student’s Union, with their president calling for him to apologise:

Claire Locke said Malcolm Gillies had “offended” Muslim students by generalising about their beliefs. There had been no calls from students to create alcohol-free areas on the London Met campus, she said.

Ms Locke argued that London Met’s Muslim students were “respectful of other people’s cultures”. Muslim students’ union officers were currently fighting for a new student bar to be opened at the university’s City campus, she added.

Ms Locke said it was not true that Muslim students did not drink, and that in the previous academic year three out of the four Muslim students’ union officers had drunk alcohol. “He should retract the comments and apologise to the students he has offended,” she said.

The unrepentant vice-chancellor then apparently chose to widen his net of those who might agree with his stance:

…some students, particularly Muslim women, would feel uncomfortable attending university events in a pub, for example, and that the concerns he raised could apply to other groups such as American Protestants or Buddhists.

It seems that in his desire to be a good little prohibitionist, the professor isn’t adverse to using minority groups as cover.

From a personal perspective, having worked along side a few Muslims, met one or two others socially (in a pub) and currently having one as a lodger, none of them have cared that I’m a consumer of alcohol – or, indeed, bacon.

Certainly at home I haven’t stopped eating bacon, drinking booze and wearing clothing considered decent by Western standards but probably positively shocking by Pakistani standards. Yes, it might be my gaffe, my rules but, because I have a small modicum of common sense and can sometimes demonstrate a tolerance for the foibles of others, I’m not going to ask him to join me for a drink and some pork scratchings. Indeed he is free to leave anytime he wants*** but has, as yet, chosen not to.

Thus once again I come to the conclusion that if the Prof Gillies’ and Alaa Alsamarrai’s of this world just left well alone we’d all manage to rub along quite happily and the world would be a better place for it.

* If one can call something which was formed in 2002 from the merger of two former polytechnics a University.**

** Yes, I’m probably being snobbish here. :)

*** Like with any lodger, there are times I’d be quite happy for him to up sticks and leave but his religion is not the problem.

No surprises allowed

With the hiding of tobacco products (no doubt to be followed by plain packing); minimum pricing on alcohol (no doubt to be followed by measures similar to those enacted against tabacco); the new idea to slap age certificates on pop videos and a myriad of other inanities which the UK population are going to be made to suffer, in part, because of the ‘think of the children’ lobby, it is surprising gratifying to come across a piece of draconian stupidity which has nothing to do with this government.

Instead I bring you the US government’s ban on Kinder Surprise eggs because of – you guessed it – the children:

As Easter approaches, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reminds international travelers not to bring any Kinder Surprise eggs into the U.S. Also known as Kinder Eggs, these chocolate treats may be cute and seasonal but they are too dangerous to children to be imported legally into the U.S. The problem is the small plastic toy inside the Kinder Egg. While sold in many countries, this product is banned from the U.S. because young children can choke on it.

Does anyone have any figures as to how many children have choked on the surprise inside of a Kinder Surprise? I would be surprised if the figure were even as high as 1 in 100.

Can someone please stop the world, I wont to get off!