Tuesday, January 6, 2009

An eruption of violence in Tonbridge?...

There's alot in the press at the moment about the increase in the crime rate brought on by so called 24-hour drinking. I must say I haven't noticed any increase in violence, or any violence come to mention it, in Tonbridge since the new laws came into force in 2005. Has the Humphrey Bean become suddenly a hotbed of violence? Has the Pinacles turned into the OK Corral? There's so much politically motivated claptrap spoken on this subject it's unbelievable. There's always been drinking allowed 24 hours a day in most of continental Europe; I remember as a 16 year old being allowed to drink in a bar in Germany on a school trip and feeling really grown up and sensible. Yes we had a good time and yes we got a little merry, but there was not a whiff of violence in the air. I reckon that the main cause of trouble and I thought the reason for the lifting the ban on selling alcohol after 11pm in pubs was to prevent the surge in incidents as drunken young folk all poured out onto the street at once; this seemed an incredibly sensible measure brought in by Blair's government. Extended hours at the landlord's discretion has to be the continued way forward; and by the way we don't have 24 hour drinking we just have premises which can stay open for as long as they want to, while ever there is business still to be had, which usually means an hour or two extra at the weekends. If we as Brits are ever to shake off this worrying image as being the binge drinkers of Europe, we need to allow for sufficient time to elapse before people eventually do not think that being able to drink whenever they like is a novelty. It isn't, it should be our right if we so choose; the answer is simple: the pubs which can't control their hours and drinkers properly should be shut down; that way they'll have to serve alcohol more responsibly. I'm off home now to gulp down a bottle of Fursty Ferret real ale, bought from that very responsible supermarket Sainsbury's on offer at 4 bottles for £5. There's never been a restriction on when we can drink at home so why should there be if we're in town, we're thirsty and there's landlord who doesn't mind keeping his bar open?....

1 comment:

Paul Bailey said...

Unfortunately certain newspapers, in particular the "Daily Mail", picked up on this topic some time ago. In the case of the aforementioned comic, this story was primarily run so the paper could indulge in its favourite sport of "Blair Bashing". Now I'm not a member of any political party, and certainly no fan of "New Labour", but it seems to me that whatever the government does the "Daily Mail" does not approve. Were they to give every citizen a gold bar free of charge, the paper would no doubt still find something wrong with the idea.

This seems to be exactly the case with the 2003 Licensing Act. Our friends at the Mail have conveniently ignored the positive aspects of the changes in Licensing Laws ie. treating us like responsible adults who don't need the Nanny State telling us when we can and can't have a drink. In addition, the boost to the tourist industry that the more liberal licensing laws have given, have stopped this country being a source of amusement and bewilderment for visitors from abroad. Regretably, the likes of the "Daily Mail" have concentrated purely on the negative sides of the issue which have nothing to do with the act itself, but rather the anti-social behaviour of a small number of people - people who would still continue to act in this fashion even if we went back to the days when pubs stopped serving at 11pm.

With the possible exception of a few airport bars (and even then this only applies to bars the other side of security), there are no licensed establishments in the UK where drinking is allowed round the clock. This alone should lay to rest the myth of "24 hour drinking", but the press continue to refer to it in this inaccurate and misleading way.

The whole thing boils down to issues of education and social responsibilty. Drinkers on the continent, especially young ones, just do not behave the same way as the people we see time and time again on the "Police Camera Action" type programmes beloved of TV producers. This is because they have been brought up in an atmosphere where the consumption of alcohol is treated in a mature fshion. They are introduced to alcohol at a relatively early age, and taught how to enjoy it in a sensible and moderate fashion.

Contrast this with the United States where in most parts of the country you need to be 21 in order to enjoy a drink. The totally irresponsible way that student societies and other bodies act when their members are finally allowed to drink legally, makes the behaviour of our so-called binge drinkers look timid in comparison. This is because they have built up a huge, and totally false impression of what alcohol is all about. Because they have not encountered alcohol earlier in their lives they are unable to handle it, or more importantly its negative effects on behaviour. If, like our European neighbours, they had been introduced to drink at an earlier stage, they would not carry on in such a fashion.

Let's then continue to educate our young people in how to both drink responsibly and behave in a mature and adult fashion. Let's not resort to "knee jerk" politics and start blaming long overdue reforming legislation for society's ills!