Thursday, 6 September 2007

PG Boozing: Mr Cameron - May I Offer You A Policy?

by Edwin Hesselthwite

Little Man, What Now? has been watching Dave's progress with interest. Early on he bent into complex contortions to avoid policy statements, which suggested to those of an optimistic mind that he might have some ideas held back for election time. Since we make it a code here to give democratic leaders the benefit of the doubt, it was with great sadness that we today witnessed the launch of his "Patriotic National Service" idea in The Sun. This is the beginning of the phoney-war for the next election, which could come at any time, and this was the first week's big cannon-shot. The policy is a transparent attempt to do something about youths (please see The Devil's Kitchen for a takedown, we just couldn't summon the enthusiasm) and the implications of such flaccid but high profile offerings are utterly depressing - his policy team are obviously not the same Oxbridge material as he is.

After giving this a minutes thought, we decided to take pity on poor old WebCam. While this is clearly a "not to be implemented" policy - fired into the media much like old Tony's spot fines - it's still a definite third rate piece of work. We suspect it's relatively easy to come up with something for the same purpose (media firewood) that is at least sane, sensible and arguably worthwhile. With this in mind we offer you our own opposition-type policy, and invite other bloggers to do the same... Surely there must be something better than this.

PG Access to Alcohol

You probably need to offer something about public drunkenness, Dave. The media is beating up a storm about youth at the moment, there is an ugly stereotype amongst our continental cousin's about sozzled British younger generations, and it will nicely define your trim frame against Brown (who should be easy to stitch up as an obese glutton at this time of waistline obsession). A new and radical policy on booze, youth and licensing would go down a treat.

In the case of films, the Parental Guidance Certificate works reasonably effectively, staggering children's access to violent and sexual content. It seems reasonable to suggest that alcohol could be treated the same way, thereby gradually socialising youths to something considered dangerous, but doing it in a safe environment at the hands of their own parents. The ideal would be to bring children into pubs (one of the common centres of British community) younger, an idea that is even more acceptable now that the smoking ban has made pubs more family friendly. This is the sort of policy the BBC are virtually guaranteed to favourably compare with the "sensible drinking wine with meals" attitude they ascribe to our continental cousins, you'll play well to their prejudices. By staggering the booze laws you'd kill two birds with one stone - you would be liberalising something that is currently ridiculously restrictive, and you would be engaging in social engineering to please the Christian Democrat fraction of the party.

Here's one suggested staggering:

At 12 you are allowed in pubs with a guardian (let's say guardians must be over 21).

At 14 you can enter a public house on your own and consume alcohol bought for you by a guardian.

At 16 you can buy alcohol on a licensed premises but only if accompanied by aforementioned guardian.

At 18 all doors are opened, as is currently the case.

If you really feel the need to throw the authoritarians a bone, stagger alcohol contents and do something along the lines of only allowing over-21s access to spirits. If the Redwoodites demand more then implement some sort of zero tolerance system for youths caught street-drinking (you probably wouldn't even need to enforce this), the Mail would probably like that. This is just the sort of ludicrous experiment conducted on the citizenry (you know, like the smoking ban and your national service policy) they get a kick out of.

There are a few drawbacks - you may get some bad headlines if you actually get to form a government "14 year old found doused up on snakebite with knickers in the air as paralytic parents watch on" but to be honest, that gov
ernment is never going to happen, so you only need to worry about how it looks in the manifesto (you'll be able to knock out some great posters based on the BBFC symbols)... The absolute worst that can happen is you end up victim to a long low key campaign by some vested interests (like that which came up after the reclassification of cannabis) and then all you have to do is a moderated climbdown - a climbdown that will win you even more votes when the time comes.

It's simple, arguably effective and liberalising... Prepared to give it a go, Cam?

To our mind, this is a superior policy than that which Cameron slipped under Murdoch's paw today, and we took about 20 minutes to come up with it. In an ideal world we would see a more wholesale, libertarian licensing liberalisation, but that just isn't Dave's style - we're doing this for you Dave. In the same vein, we at LMWN encourage other bloggers to come up with policies that The Conservative Party might make serious use of, since they so obviously need our help. We promise to link to any of you at the bottom of this article.

However we happen to feel about Cameron's Conservatives, we can at least help them come up with better policies if they absolutely have to play the media-politics game.

(Ming, you're welcome to take this one, too, if you fancy it)


Charles Pooter said...

You may as well give the policy to Keith Chegwin, he's just as likely to become Prime Minister.

Major Gripe said...

He's an Oxford man, half-wits the lot of them.

This evening I intend to provide the blogosphere with a view of each of the Tory mayoral candidates - I can't believe that Boris 'class clown' Johnson is seriously among them.

Anyway, great policy - just legalises what happens anyway surely.

Edwin Hesselthwite said...

MG: that is pretty much the intention...

At the moment parents do introduce their kids to booze, but generally people do their drinking either as groups in bars they can get away with it, or down the park... The intent here is to get them drinking with their families first, taking the exotic out of paralytic drunkenness on the heath.

It is (to our mind) ridiculous that everyone lies about their age for their first taste of booze.