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Sunday, 2 October 2011

Gyles Brandreth and the truth about beer

I was outraged to hear Gyles Brandreth say on Just A Minute: "The one thing I could not stand about being an MP were my constituents." Mr Brandreth knows perfectly well that he should have said: "The one thing I could not stand about about being an MP was my constituents." A thing was, not a thing were. If you have not already read Mr Brandreth's book Breaking the Code, then please do - it is the best (and most entertaining) book that I have ever read about Parliamentary life. Incidentally, in contrast to Mr Brandreth's comments about his Chester constituents, I have never had anything but the highest regard for the good burghers of Hendon, with the best of the burghers not being a burger at all but a sort-of kebab thing that I ate in an Afghan cafe on West Hendon Broadway before addressing the Barnet Muslim Forum. 

But I digress. Just A Minute was followed by The Food Programme. I normally switch off The Food Programme with a rapidity that is exceeded only by the speed with which I switch off Moneybox or Gardeners' Question Time, and the faster-than-light sub-atomic velocity that is my response to You and Yours. But then the BBC announcer said that today's Food Programme was about beer. This, I thought, is why I pay my licence fee, as I kept the wireless switched on after all. Then it was actually about behavioural psychology, and in particular, Mr Cameron's 'nudge' theory, and I came to the conclusion that a pretense of beer had been used to nudge me into listening to the radio equivalent of an acorn cordial - slightly beige, a bit nutty and allegedly good for me. 

Actually, I quite like nudge theory, and the programme did eventually succeed in degenerating into a good discussion about beer. It would appear to be April the First, as it included the news that (as of today) it is now legal to enter a public house and order not just a pint of beer, not just half a pint of beer, but two thirds of a pint of beer, the idea being that one can ask for small, medium or large. This is too ridiculous to be true, as I find it impossible to believe that anyone in government would be wasting time (and money, for civil servants' time is money) on such a nonsensical and pointless change to the rules when there is so much else to be getting on with at present. 

Incidentally, I'm sure that everybody reading this is aware of the truth about alcohol consumption in this country? That, between 2004 and 2010, average weekly consumption of alcohol in the UK fell by 11%? That the number of men binge-drinking fell by 3% between 2006 and 2009? That the proportion of men drinking more than the recommended amount fell from 31% to 26%? That the proportion of young people who drink under-age has dropped from 26% to 13%? And that, in Europe, we rank 14th out of 31 in terms of which countries drink the most, and 15th out of 28 for deaths from liver disease? Anyone who tells you anything else is not telling the truth. But then, when did we ever let the truth get in the way of a good moral panic? It is not to be denied that alcohol consumption has public health implications; the pubs near me are full of bitter men with real ailments (an appalling gag that I once lent a friend for inclusion in his novel, and which I am now borrowing back).

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