A brief and probably ill-advised foray into political commentary no.17: drink

One of the reasons I’m not a fan of the current government is their solution to pretty much anything seems to be:

  1. Criminalise it
  2. Blame the parents (if appropriate)
  3. Treat everybody as if they were five years old when explaining the policy, as if admonishing a naughty child.
  4. If anybody’s enjoying the problem, they’re probably wrong.
  5. Point out it was all much worse under the Tories, and all society’s ills can probably be traced back to Disraeli, Peel and Pitt The Younger if you look hard enough (last resort).

In short, the current government feels somewhat like a mix between one of the old ward Matrons and a bunch of middle managers who have too much time on their hands.

And so the five rules of government that I’ve just made up on the spot while feeling incredibly rough, thanks to an angry set of internal organs, can be applied to the announcement that parents are to be given guidelines on how much their kids can drink, along with potential prosecution if said wayward feral youth does not desist from drinking alcohol.

Largely it seem to overlook the idea that teenagers are largely autonomous beings. Flawed (but then aren’t we all) yes, still learning, yes, but capable enough of knowing exactly what the effects of a double vodka and orange are, and more than capable of finding concealed areas of parkland to consume several double vodka and oranges – and no amount of sitting on the naughty step is going to change that. If anything, it’ll probably increase the idea that drinking is a good thing.

Secondly, it assumes that parents are too thick to know what a double vodka and orange does to their child. Frankly, you’d assume that if the kid is regularly getting drunk and the parents are aware of this, then they’ve probably got a darn good idea what a double vodka and orange does to their child.

The stats at the bottom of the article make interesting reading:

“The government said the number of 11 to 15-year-olds drinking regularly had fallen from 28% in 2001 to 21% in 2006.

However, average consumption by young people who drank had nearly doubled from 5.3 units in 1990 to 11.4 units in 2006.”

Which somewhat implies that the teenagers definitely know what they’re doing, and no amount of legislation will change that.

I have no idea what the solution is – other than to somehow engineer a massive cultural shift away from the idea that a good night out involves drinking yourself into a stupor, which won’t happen anytime soon. Force feeding teenagers alcohol until they throw up and suffer a hangover from hell would probably put most of them off, although also probably suggests its a good thing that I don’t plan to have children myself [Note to friends starting a family: this includes Godparenting roles as well – small children terrify me and older ones just irritate me].

The yoghurt-munching, beard-stroking liberal in me would always say educating – or at least speaking to them – would probably make more of an impact that locking up their mum and dad. The other part of me, which is god alone knows what, would say that teenagers have always sat in a park consuming cheap cider, knowing it to be wrong and no amount of laws will discourage them from doing otherwise. And the rest of me doesn’t have an opinion but just knows it’s probably a very stupid idea. This may well be the genetic make up of a Guardian reader, although I’ve started reading the Spectator as well now.

And without wanting to make the next bit sound like one of those people who write letters to newspapers prefacing them with the words “Dear sir, I am not usually one to complain but…” it really does feel that now they’ve made inroads into smokers, the government has decided that anybody who drinks, but mostly the middle-class because they have higher levels of guilt due to the large amounts of fair trade products that they purchase, is probably having too much fun, doing something bad and should be stopped. And so Matron and the middle management combine again.

And before you ask, my queasy internal organs have nothing to do with drinking today.


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Yes, this is my name. And my email. Use it wisely or you're not getting a biscuit with your tea: garyllewellynandrews [at] gmail [dot] com

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