Lovers coming together

Opponents of fixed-term elections appear not to have noticed that Gordon Brown’s cowardice has effectively ensured that a full-term parliament is exactly what we are living with in the present. And what joyous developments there has been in the first few weeks of the new year; is this the second decade of the 21st century…or the immediate post-war years?

I ask because both Labour and Conservative parties are doing their best to create a puritanical, paranoid, conservative [very much sic] state, of tradition and good behaviour which didn’t really exist.

Society has moved on from the vision of Mr and Mrs Smith watching their daughter go off to live in married bliss with the butcher’s son. David Cameron would like to see the time-machine rewind to these very days. The concept of co-habitation must appear to Cameron like a cryptic crossword clue; the answer must be contained inside but he just cannot fathom it out. “Tax breaks for married couples” is one of the craziest idea suggested by a serious political party in some time. How would this work, exactly? George Osborne inviting himself to weddings with bank-notes mixed in with the confetti?

Marriage is an institution perfectly suited for many people across the country, that I do not dispute. But marriage is not the end solution for just as many people in this day and age, certainly not for my sister, my parents, or the son of my boss who has 20 years of co-habitation together with a loving partner, two children, a well-paid job, and their own house. How offensive would it be for the State to award a married couple next door while penalising them for daring to live a perfectly acceptable loving life without a marriage certificate?

If the Tories’ over-controlling tendencies were not bad enough, in the red corner it’s almost beyond belief. The Labour Party would never pick on Mr Wall-Mart or Mr Morrisons, for they have expensive lawyers with deep pockets, so instead the new puritans in our Government are hoping to force out of business every corner shop owner and pub landlord. Their latest wheeze – ban everything which could make drinking more than one pint a week possible, (do “drink all you can” offers even exist?), stop grown adults from leaving the house of a week-night in case they dare want to buy more than one bottle of wine from Oddbins, and force the ID Card system on the nation by forcing bar-staff to check the identity of every customer.

It’s absolute cuckoo-bananas.

I cannot fathom how the Cabinet came up with this latest round of anti alcohol madness. Well, actually maybe I can. When they did the sensible thing by dragging the UK into the 20th century with licensing law liberalisation, they grabbed the headlines and ran away from the side-effects. Had somebody checked that each and every consequence of a new drinking culture was understood and legislated for, we wouldn’t now be in this “cocks on the table” auction between red and blue corners about who can alienate drinkers more.

Why is “white cider” not taxed as much as ale? Why can’t the Government reduce the duty on micro-breweries to encourage sensible drinking of heavier beers and ales? If the Home Office want to go after young boys and girls from council estates with drink-related crime issues whilst being too scared to admit it in case it looks like “class war” against the wrong class….tough! The majority of adult drinkers are a combination of a) sensible, and b) know how to deal with having one-or-five-too-many.

On minimum prices for alcohol, which could soon be the case in Scotland, I am not so sceptical. It may dissuade those buying booze for underage drinkers from doing so, whilst it may have the unintended consequence of pricing out students (who inject a lot of finance into the university towns they settle in) or those on fixed-incomes.

Penalising all drinkers in the hope of catching some will do nothing to increase respect from the general public. It’s another case of “Labour knows best”, of State control, of a massive reversal of the liberal democracy I once assumed was the United Kingdom.

On marriage, and on the right to drink, both Conservatives and Labour have it totally wrong. It should not be the responsibility of the State to make marriage a tax-haven, nor consider the act of drinking a pint of John Smith’s the gateway drug to violent crime.

Whatever next? Patrols of Behaviour Police dressed in cloaks and Guy Fawkes masks, I wouldn’t wonder….

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