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Dropping plan for minimum alcohol pricing is sensible

By Harry Phibbs
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In The Times on Saturday Matthew Parris offered (£) a DIY guide to pointless political advice. One is to urge politicians to "stay the course" and "not to wobble" - this is when you happen to like their proposal. Another is to warn politicians against a "refusal to listen" or "stubborn dogmatism" - this is when you don't like their proposal.

This is a Government which typically sticks to its policies on the big issues but makes u-turns on smaller matters. The modest "u-turns" on the spare room subsidy seem pretty reasonable to me - as does pressing ahead with the general policy.

We had another u-turn in the news today with the plan for minimum alcohol pricing being ditched. I am pleased. This is the sort of nannying that politicians are often attracted by. I remember talk of banning alcopops a couple of decades ago. It is an unattractive condescending brand of politics. It punishes the innocent along with the guilty. Most young people who drink alcopops don't then go on a rampage. Similarly most of those looking for special offers when they buy booze are doing so because they have to be careful with their money. They are not "pre loaders" but pensioners in council flats.

There is a hint of disdain from middle aged, middle class politicians seeking prohibitions on the "ghastly" drinks favoured by the young or the poor.

The law should punish wrong doing rather than meddle with the price mechanism. Prissy, nannying interference in the lifestyle of individuals should be resisted. But there is also a political dimension. The minimum alcohol pricing would not have troubled the Bullingdon Club. It would have only had an impact on the poor. Already we can see the main themes the General Election will be fought on. The Conservatives will go for Ed Miliband - they now think that is safe as it is too late for Labour to replace him. I thought the slogan disclosed by Tim yesterday in relation to Council Tax revaluation was effective. The leaflet pictures Labour leader Ed Miliband peaking through blinds with the slogan: "Little Brother is Watching." Neat - as it combines in four words the Red Ed message, a reminder of the treachery to his elder brother David, and a general belittling of the Labour leader's lack of statesmanlike credentials.

Labour's message also has "traction." It is that the Conservatives are the Party of the rich not the poor. Pressing ahead with a minimum alcohol price would have greatly helped Labour to make that case.


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