A open letter to David Cameron
I have attempted to send said email: alas, the only way to contact the Buttered New Potato electronically is to use the Number 10 submission form—which limits you to 1000 characters. So, do I break it up into several emails, just send him the link or shall I print it out and post it in the old-fashioned way?
Or, since all the Tory grandees seem to be reading him at present, perhaps Guido would be kind enough to ask on your humble Devil's behalf...?
Answers on a postcard or, preferably, in the comments below.
Anyway, on with the fun...
Dear Mr Cameron,
I am writing to ask you—as politely as I can—what you think you are playing at as regards the minimum pricing of alcohol?
Since you are Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, I assume that you have a great many researchers and advisors (who will, no doubt, be the only ones who read this); as such, I am forced to assume that you also know that:
- the amount of alcohol consumption has been steadily dropping over the last ten years;
- the proportion of people drinking more than their recommended weekly units is also on a solid downward trajectory;
- this is true even amongst "the young";
- the nation's alcohol consumption has dropped by about 20% in 5 years;
- these figures come from your Office for National Statistics' General Lifestyle Survey—helpfully summarised by Chris Snowdon.
Further, you will also know that:
- about 4 years ago, Richard Smith—a member of the Royal College of Physicians group that produced the report on which the recommended weekly units are based—told The Times that "... it’s impossible to say what’s safe and what isn’t... we don’t really have any data whatsoever... Those limits were really plucked out of the air. They were not based on any firm evidence at all. It was a sort of intelligent guess by a committee" (no longer generally available online but also reported by The Register);
- the ONS changed assumed that people were drinking bigger glasses of stronger alcohol in 2007, thus producing a strong upward trend where none actually existed (as measured in volume of pure alcohol)—Myth 1, here;
- although you were recently quoted as saying "When beer is cheaper than water, it’s just too easy for people to get drunk on cheap alcohol at home...", this is, in fact, not true. Alcohol is not cheaper than water, even bottled water—Myth 5, here;
- alcohol is roughly 20% more expensive, in real terms, than in 1980 (the year often quoted as a yardstick)—Myth 2, here;
- that alcohol, smoking and obesity actually cost health systems less money than "healthy people" due to their tendency to die younger.
Finally, for the moment, I will also assume that you know that the EU has already said that minimum price fixing is illegal under Free Trade rules—for both alcohol and cigarettes, e.g. media reports here (Ireland's attempt to set a minimum price for tobacco), here (Scotland's minimum alcohol price), here (an EC Council Directive on tobacco which lays out the judgement on minimum pricing of anything), and references to two other cases here.
Let us leave aside whether the minimum pricing of alcohol is a suitable policy initiative for a man who said, in 2008, "The era of big, bossy, state interference, top-down lever pulling is coming to an end". Yes, we'll leave that—no one actually expected you to keep such a promise, nor any others about restoration of our freedoms.
No—what I am asking is why you would adopt such an illegal, regressive and illiberal policy when you yourself must know that the problem that minimum pricing is supposed to solve simply doesn't exist?
And given that you must know all of the above, why you continue to tell lies to the public?
I look forward to publishing the Prime Minister's response.