Binge and purge

Posted: December 17, 2012 in Opinion piece
Tags: , , , , , ,

The moves to legislate a minimum price per unit on alcohol, as well as banning certain drinks offers, is something I think has been a long time coming. My long-term stance has always been to support some form of minimum pricing on alcohol, and when this was put forward, I was in full support. That was, until I heard David Cameron say something about people like him ‘subsidising the irresponsible binge-drinkers’.

Being my natural enemy, I had to question my own stance. If a privileged, out of touch, State-hating Neoliberal corporate stooge like Cameron could attempt to put forward a ‘human’ case for minimum pricing, what was in it for him? After all, this is the man who lied about privatising the NHS for his corporate backers, refused to implement the full Leveson recommendations for fear of offending his backers, and backed out of a fair progressive rate of council tax on mansions as his wealthy donors blackmailed him. If Cameron was any more subservient, you could see his strings.

Then the mobus operandi for this minimum pricing cheerleading struck me. It took a while, as it was not so obvious as his other u-turns/disingenuous pro-rich policies. After all, pricing the destitute out of ruining their livers so quickly ticks one box: it hammers the poor. But where was the ‘enrichment for the wealthy’ side of the deal? The answer lies not in enrichment, but rather the wealthy dodging a potential bullet.

One thing the modern Neoliberal Tories love more than anything is economic powerhouses, the more monopolistic the better. And they don’t come more economically powerful than supermarkets. And here we arrive at the destination of the solution of my conundrum. Supermarkets, as well as benefitting themselves from the extra takings this will generate, are off the hook in terms of legislation.

It occurred to me yesterday that the country has lost a great number of a certain business that used to thrive: off-licences. Why? It is not hard to come to the conclusion that supermarkets’ predatory pricing has driven them out of business. Supermarket spokespeople have even admitted that they generally sell alcohol at below cost-price. They make a loss on alcohol, because it acts as a lure for shoppers to buy other impulse items they do make a profit on.

They have now done this for long enough to drive most exclusive alcohol sellers out of business. What off-licence can compete with below cost price selling? What pub can? Pubs can offer the social aspect, but even this is rejected when times are tight. Supermarkets’ dubious sales ploys have driven two decent British institutions to the brink, and still the Government indulges them. If there were any justice, supermarkets would be banned from selling any alcohol, with the possible exception of wine.

This is my solution. Not minimum pricing, which hurts the poor, increases cost to everyone and only pours money into the very businesses that need it least. We need to ban the sale of alcohol altogether in supermarkets. But is it too little too late? The supermarkets will reluctantly agree to this now, knowing that decades of predatory pricing have stripped the market of competitors. They have nothing to lose. They should have. If they are the ones suffering for once, the rest of us will benefit in the long run.

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