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« Mrs Andrew Marr makes the case for Ken Clarke | Main | Party democrats face "chaos" threats as ballot papers are despatched on leadership process »


Adrian Owens

Leaving aside for a moment the fact that the Conservative opposition supported this liberalisation of licensing hours and to oppose it now smacks of the opportunism that repels voters, I’m not convinced that David Cameron should be ashamed of this directorship. Drink in moderation is not harmful to health in the way that tobacco (Ken Clarke’s connections with BAT) is.

Opposing the liberalisation of licensing rests on the premise that the law-abiding majority who know how to drink sensibly must be restricted for the sake of the loutish minority who do not. Admittedly, we have a binge-drinking culture where this minority is becoming ever larger, but the answer is surely for the police to enforce the laws at their disposal. It is after all an offence to serve liquor to someone who is drunk.

James Maskell

I dont think voters will even notice the change in opinion, they'll simply assume all politicians are the same anyway and they'll assume opportunism is happening.

I think its a good call for him to drop the directorship. Its controversial and something that could have haunted him had he held onto it. Didnt realise he got so much money out of the directorship though. Thats over 4 times what I earn. Maybe Im in the wrong job!


How times change. A few years ago, up-and-coming Tory MPs would be trying to associate themselves with trendy drinking establishments, but now the leading moderniser is disassociating himself from this particular aspect of modern Britain. I don't suppose Mr Cameron will be launching his campaign in a temperance hall, but I doubt it'll be at the Avenue either (the achingly hip watering hole where one M Portillo launched his leadership bid back in 2001).

And booze isn't the only issue on which social liberalism appears to be in retreat. Four years ago, the modernisers only mentioned the word 'marriage' if it had the word 'gay' in front of it, now they're falling over themselves (so to speak) to stand up for plain vanilla matrimony.

One also notes that the mods have metaphorically flushed their spliffs down the toilet. No appetite to legalise cannabis now, it would seem. Not even Tim Yeo, who publically confessed to finding the drug "agreeable" is raising the issue.

Why the outbreak of straight-laced sobriety? Perhaps the consequences of social breakdown are now too obvious to sweep aside. And, anyway, no one was ever convinced by our let-it-all-hang-out tendency, in fact they'd much rather we just stuffed it all back in again.

The main danger now is that we'll revert to reactionary type instead of placing the renewed emphasis on social responsibility squarely within a context of social compassion.

Still, at least the indulgence of social irresponsibility now appears to be as dead in the water as support for the euro.

Jacob Träff

David Davis really disappointed me there. I believe in personal responsibility. The government should not get involved in my drinking habits. If someone breaks the law while drunk, he or she should be punished for it. But not me or any other law-abiding citizen.

If someone wants to have their pub open 24-7 - let them! And if someone wants to drink there 24-7 - let them! Treating human beings like children or less will only make them behave like children or less. The problem of morality and social decadence cannot be solved by regulation - as Barry Goldwater said: "you cannot legislate morality".

Moreover, David Cameron should be proud of contributing to an apparently succesfull business.

Jonathan Sheppard

The problem is that there aren't enough police to punish people who break the law. The police and judges have rightly criticised moves to allow pubs to open longer and I have to say I agree with them and the stance Davis has taken.

Selsdon Man

Well said Jacob and Adrian. It is disappointing that the introduction again attacks laissez faire. Is there nothing that you do not want to make illegal?

All this moralising nonsense will not win back the young voters. David Cameron should keep his directorship for now and only resign if he wins the leadership. As for Davis, such blatant opportunism is undermining his credibility. So much for his free market beliefs!

Jonathan Sheppard

Opportunism?? He is the Shadow Home Secretary - talking about issues within his portfolio. I suppose you would like him to legalise drugs too?


Simon Bowers in The Guardian questions the accuracy of the Evening Standard report (repeated in other of today's newspapers including The Telegraph):

"The Conservative leadership contender David Cameron last night denied reports that he would resign as a director of a late-night bar business involved in a dispute over extended opening hours... Mr Cameron has kept his remarks on the subject to a minimum, but a spokesman last night denied newspaper reports that he was about to resign from Urbium. He said: "There is no conflict of interest between his position on the board and his position as shadow education secretary ... Urbium is a responsible retailer.""

Jonathan Sheppard

AS a matter of interest - would an MP be allowed under current rules to speak on an issue such as the Violent Crime Bill which deals with aspects of alcohol retailing if they remunerated by an alcohon retailer? What are the rules these days?


My understanding, Jonathan, is that they would have to declare their interest before they spoke.

Selsdon Man

Jonathan - I say opportunism because the Conservatives have backed more liberal licensing laws in the past. I believe that the Davis camp are trying to make capital from Cameron's directorship.

The Party is becoming authoritarian again - the opposition to gambling liberalisation is another example. The growth in online gambling shows the futility of that approach.

Those of us who believe in individual freedom need to stand up to the authoritarian statists in the Party who want to run our lives.

Oberon Houston

I agree with the remark that the Party is getting authoritarian again. It annoys the public to be told that they are living in an amoral society that is repugnant to Tories. When leadership contenders come out with streams of negative rhetoric regarding our society today I get nervous. We must move away from the image that we currently have in the eyes of many that we secretly have an intense dislike for the great unwashed. We continually project ourselves in a negative and unsavoury light.

Example: When talking about the NHS, we commonly go overboard and start openly attacking it as an institution. Problem: many people actually like the NHS and have recently paid lots of money in an effort to improve it. To be then told in aggressive language that it is a sham is very irritating to many voters, especially my wife (women are apparently are more attached to it than men). They worry that we secretly want to pull it down and are keeping mum about what we intend to do instead. What we really should be doing is using much more moderate language, with lots of supporting comments to improve the service.

My wife would not even entertain the thought of voting Conservative, when asked why the answer is “because I don’t like them”.

The problem we face with the electorate is not our policy, its that they don’t like us because they have this intuition that we secretly don’t like them either. Considering some of the language we commonly use, I think they are perfectly reasonable in coming to that conclusion and I don’t blame them for it. To many people out there, right now, today, we really are the Nasty Party.

Jonathan Sheppard

I too believe in individual freedom. However I would like to be free to go into certain town centres without being confronted by drunked louts. Now a lot of the problem is down to the planning system which allowed too many vertical dinking establishments to be built in certain areas - but it is by no means an afront to "freedom" to state you don't beleive pubs should be open 24 hours.

I also don't believe people should drink and drive -is that an afront to someone right to drink and then get behind the well of a car?

Well I wouldn't apologise for having such a view - as it impinges on my freedom to be able to drive safely without the fear of some boozed up drived crashing into me.

Until there is a cultire of responsible drinking I fear 24 licenses will only add to the problem.

Interestingly under Michael Howard, our party backed ID cards - but Davis is against them. Is that just making political capital - or is he protecting freedoms?

Jonathan Sheppard

Another example - cannabis. The Labour party downgraded the use of cannabis. I fought the 2005 election in a constituency which has had one of the worst dug problems in the country. The BBC did a one hour special on all the social problems that existed.

The incumbent MP put much of the blame down to Thatcher closing the pits (something I put him straight on).

Now many people believe you should be free to smoke cannabis..... "it doesn't do any harm". Oh really??? Have you checked the increasing number of people admitted to hospital due to mental illnesses due to smoking cannabis. Or have you checked how much shop lifting costs british retailers mainly down to drugs. And have you checked that it is often the case that those who supply cannabis supply harder drugs.

So I am all for reclassifying the drug - to protect my freedoms as a law abiding citizen.

Oberon Houston

Scotland has had 24hr drinking for many years now (I don’t like that term, no pubs are open 24hrs). The predictions of anarchy were made at the time they changed, however, instead of getting worse, things got – much better. I believe that Local Authorities are much better placed to regulate licensing hours. If an establishment’s patrons are a nuisance the Local Authority slashes its opening hours, its a carrot & stick system that works very well in Scotland and I believe will also work well in England.

As far as ID cards go, I think is the kind authoritarianism Labour secretly likes and we, as good Tories, should oppose.

Jonathan Sheppard

Local Authorities will be able to slap alcohol disorder zones on every town centre which will enable them to charge every single holder of a licence with what will basiaclly be a tax. The home Office have expressed nothing to suggest this won't happen.

So on the one hand Labour will de-regulate premises where alcohol can be sold - and then in another bill introduce provisions that will allow for a levy to be charged on licenced premises to pay for "alcohol disorder" whether the premise (including retailers selling Xmas gift packs)contributes to the problem or not.

Now that's statism.

Wat Tyler

Meanwhile, back on the original Cameron/Clarke directorships story. Am I the only one who thinks our MPs should not take additional paid jobs outside? The conflicts of interest are obvious and unacceptable- many MPs only get these jobs because they are MPs. Moreover, you don't take outside work if you are employed full-time by a company, so why should MPs be any different?

I'm all in favour of MPs having outside working experience BEFORE becoming MPs. But once there, they should devote themselves to us. If that's not enough to keep them occupied, let's reduce their numbers (well, actually, we need to do that anyway).

Selsdon Man

Good point about Scotland, Oberon. Binge drinking is an English problem. It was a problem in Scotland, especially near closing time, but liberalisation tackled it effectively.

Jonathan's comments are typical of the uninformed, knee-jerk approach of the authoritarian statists.

I await more proposals to censor the internet - Charles Clarke has cleverly started with Islamist extremists but it will be extended. He will be egged on by the authoritarians in our Party.

As for cannabis, it greatly helps a relative who has progressive Multiple Sclerosis. He is ex-RAF (who experimented on him and probably caused his illness)and a staunch Tory. His son and his friends buy his cannabis for him. Ignorant finger wagging statists like Jonathan in our Party would put him and his son in prison. So much for caring!

My relative believes that no politician should tell him what is good or bad for his body. If the politicians control your body, you are a slave.


Usually agree with you Selsdon Man.Not this time'though.
Scotland has a higher percentage of alchoholics (per head)than any other part of Great Britain.
Whilst I have sympathy for your relative,(there may be a case for making Cannabis available by prescription).2 people I know have suffered severe mental problems after heavy use.One killed himself and the other is an outpatient at a mental hospital.
The task of Conservatives is to make our country a better place to live.I entirely fail to understand how they will do this by relaxing licensing laws or decriminalising drug use.If that's authoritarian so be it.

Jonathan Sheppard

Selsdon - well why have politicians are even laws - why not take your agument to the extreme and have anarchy and every man and woman for themselves.

You also do your argument no justice by school boy name calling such as calling me ignorant. My day job is for a leading chain of high street pharmacists who play a leading role in drug replacement treatments - and combined with seeing the effects of drug addiction first hand I would suggest my arguments (whether you agree with them or not) have some validity.

You also make the point that it is OUR party. True. Perhaps you may care to be more tolerant of opposing views within our broad church.

I would be interested to know which leadership candidate or indeed MP you think share your libertarian views. I know David, Cameron and Fox certainly don't.


Jacob brought up the Barry Goldwater quote: "You cannot legislate morality". Indeed but that doesn't mean that you cannot legislate morally. For instance, the law against domestic violence, does not make any of us any more moral. Furthermore the law is unenforceable in many, if not most, cases. Nevertheless, in all cases, it serves the invaluable purpose of signalling society's disapproval of domestic violence.

Clearly there is a difference between legislating against acts which always result in harm to others, such as domestic violence, and those which may or not do so, such as selling alcohol. In the latter category, a balance needs to be struck and we should not kid ourselves that such a balance can ever be perfect. Any significant restriction on the sale of alcohol will inevitably limit the freedom of responsible drinkers. And yet, such restrictions are justifiable if the harm avoided is judged to be of significant magnitude.

Though we need to make a pragmatic judgement on the likelihood that restricting a freedom will avoid a given level of harm, we then need to make a moral judgement as to whether such a trade off is justifiable. Therefore, the word 'moralistic' shouldn't be hurled around as an insult. These issues are intrinsically moral.

Jonathan Sheppard

Wat - I tend to share your views. A MP's job is full time. I personally can't imagine how they would manage to have any outside interests (give how hard the MP I advise works).

If you are thinking about a career in politics it isn't about the money - as on the whole I don't believe they are over paid. However, people know that when they decide to go into it, and my personal view is that they should be full time representatives.

AS you say - they can get experience first - and indeed could make money afterwards if their parliamentary pension isn't enough. (Irony intended).

Jonathan Sheppard

Yonder - you take me back to my political philosophy days at University. You are spot on though when you raise the harm principle.


Two points: First up, a good argument made by Wat that MPs shouldn't have these potential conflicts of interest and especially in controversial areas such as alcohol & tobacco.

Secondly,as much as I dislike the man, I have to give David Davis his due on keeping pressure on Labour over the 24 hour drinking (just for the record, the town where I live a lot have already applied for 24 four opening and we already have a very anti-social town centre in the nights).

The comment that we will alienate the young, is rather condemning the young as heavy drinkers. We will lose more support amongst the young if we start backing university tuition fees than we will for backing the same line as senior police and public opinion on these stupid drinking laws.

Selsdon Man

Jonathan, I sincerely apologise for offending you. I am not an anarchist and accept the need for the Party to be a broad "church". My concern is that policy is drifting in an authoritarian direction.

My inspiration is Ronald Reagan

"I believe that the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism....The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is."

"I’m an inveterate reader. Bastiat and von Mises and Hayek".

It is time that the Conservative Party rediscovered its belief in liberty.

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