An Open Letter To Alistair Darling

Is everybody fed up yet of hearing the pub trade witter on about how Alistair Darling is slowly raping it?  I know I am, and I work in the trade.  The only reason I don’t find it quite as tedious as the Paul McCartney / Heather Mills debacle is because I own a pub, and therefore I do still feel quite passionately about the whole subject of beer, village pubs and taxation.

I’d be prepared to leave the whole topic alone, resigned to the fact that even if The Green Party got in to power tomorrow they would spend the next ten years blaming Conservative for all the tax policies that New(ish) Labour couldn’t figure out how to better, but yesterday I listened to the Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2 (which this week is being hosted by Matthew Bannister) and once again found myself having to control my temper.  It was quite handy, because right after the half an hour on how village pubs might be a thing of the past was half an hour on anger and how it actually is an illness.  It was probably what stopped me from throwing the DAB radio across the living room.

The pertinent bit of the show, however, was all about the demise of village pubs, and who should be to blame for it.  Of course, everybody in the pub trade wants Alistair Darling hanged by his testicles for taxing us yet more, while everybody who drinks in pubs thinks that publicans are richer than Russian Vodka barons and that we’re all using this month’s budget as an excuse to charge more than £3.00 for a pint of beer.

Unfortunately it isn’t the 1980s anymore and so very few pub landlords are wealthy these days.  If I were wealthy, I’d drive around in a Lexus RX400h and would buy Red Herring jeans, but instead I drive a 2000-model Jeep Grand Cherokee that likes to break down every other day and I wear Tesco Value denim.  It’s my birthday next month and I’d really like a PlayStation 3 and my lawn mower needs replacing so I’ve sort of taken a liking to the Honda HF 2620.  I would really like a copy of the full, 20-volume set of the Oxford English Dictionary but it’s £750 and I don’t even have the full Sky package.  Because I can afford none of these things.

So when I heard a DJ on the Jeremy Vine show say that all pub landlords should stop whingeing because they’re the richest people he knows, I hoped that the following segment on anger management would help because I was almost apoplectic with rage.  I suspect that this DJ, who relies on pubs for his income, might find bookings in his calendar steadily dwindling following his comments on yesterday’s show. 

It seemed, however, that the general public has little sympathy with the pub trade and is ignorant of the fact that village pubs do not make as much money as many would believe.  We don’t have the volume of trade that a high street pub enjoys and we don’t get breaks on our business rates and we have to pay the same amount for our Sky licenses as a town-centre pub and so we’re all finding life a little difficult at the moment.  Because of this, I’ve ended up writing a letter to Alistair Darling.  I doubt it will carry much weight with him and I suspect his bank of secretaries will file it in the bin before it even reaches the personal assistant who attends to his eyebrows, but it made me feel better.  If you’re interested in what the letter says, you can read it here.

More importantly, however, you could try supporting Samantha Hill of the Newbridge Arms, who has set up a petition lobbying the government to protect pubs from the onslaught of Supermarkets, or you can support the Morning Advertiser’s petition to resist calls to increase yet further the tax on alcohol.  The links to both petitions are below.

Newbridge Arms’ petitionMorning Advertiser petition

I did try to set up a petition of my own, calling for the Chancellor to look at reducing tax on draught beer, separating the sales of ‘pub-sold’ alcohol from those of supermarkets and therefore supporting pubs in their sales of alcohol in a social and responsible environment.  Unfortunately, it got rejected.

It must have been too scary for them to allow us to actually lobby the government on something so sensible.

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