8 January 2016

Why is the government bossing us off the booze?


After the usual slovenly Christmas excess, I haven’t had a drink in five days. I don’t want an award; it most certainly isn’t an achievement. I understand that for many people not having a drink in five days counts as a standard week. But for me, it just feels that after assorted festive parties followed by family fun and too much good wine, that it is time to dial it down a notch or two. That’s my choice, as are the couple of glasses of wine I’ll have tonight, and a few pints (of beer, not wine) tomorrow. In a free country those drinks should be entirely my business, not the government’s business.

Now, I feel quite militant about the subject having read the UK government’s latest “advice” and warnings about alcohol. What a dreary bunch the health fascists are. Yes, it is advice, but it is couched in such infuriatingly smug, bossy tones that I would have gone out of my way to have a long lunch today just to make a point, if I didn’t have to be at my workstation finishing a chapter for my next book.

When it comes to these new guidelines (one pint a day, no smiling in the pub, wear black, apologise for ordering wine) Simon Jenkins in the Guardian nails it:

“No reasonable person thinks that drinking too much is good for them. But what is this limit? We are told it is based on the epidemiological risk of dying of liver disease, or breast, colon or oesophageal cancer. But when we delve down into the statistics, we find the actual variations in risk to be almost trivial: a one, two or three per cent “chance” of getting a cancer by a given age. I imagine there is a similarly increased “chance” of a drinker dying some other way, but health statisticians always mention cancer because it gets a headline. Everything we do in life is risky, including much that some people enjoy and others deplore. Most daily risks we assess and accept for ourselves. We would be furious if Whitehall laid down risk and safety limits for riding horses, climbing mountains, eating foreign food and playing rugby. All involve far greater danger than marginal changes in consuming alcohol.”

Indeed, make mine a gin and tonic.

Iain Martin is Editor of CapX.