Opinion: BINGE DRINKING:SOCIETY OR GOVERNMENT CREATION?
By Tony Barrett
In light of the governments’ new proposals to combat binge drinking, I believe it is time to set the record straight as to how this not so new cultural aspect of British society has come to be one of our present day nightmares. The past and present government has insinuated that it is societies fault for having no self-control, I disagree and so would most others.
What follows is my defence of society and to show that it was the last Conservative government that introduced a new legal framework governing the sale and distribution of alcohol making its accessibility easier, the Labour government that followed then relaxed the laws even further.
The results of excessive/binge drinking are numerous; one only has to walk up the high street after 10 o’clock at night. (With its clubs, bars wine bars all side by side all offering cheap deals for a few hours early on in the evening, encouraging us out earlier.) We see adults and youth of various ages in various states of inebriation some are lying on the floor being attended by paramedics, others are in direct confrontation with each other, policemen everywhere, A&E full of drunk people who have hurt themselves with their mates being a nuisance. All this is putting pressure on services that are already stretched. Paramedics Nurses Doctors the Police do not need to be wet-nursing the drunken idiots created by consecutive governments making decisions based upon. “Business Pressure, their own Greed, and the need to create forms of Social Control. They need to be protecting and caring for society.
Time after time we have heard the past and the present Government voice their concerns over the issue of “Binge Drinking.” Binge drinking has been about within the younger generation of our society for at least three generations. It has been made a lot easier since the 1990s. Before the introduction of new legislation, the lessening of the severity of licensing laws, there were only small windows of opportunities for us to be able to get a drink in drinking establishments. These establishments were only open for a few hours a day and even less on Sundays, off licences were a rarity on the high street.
When attending college in the early eighties, you couldn’t wait to get to the bar and see if you could beat your time on the yard of ale, or just pint for pint challenges. When on University campus in the early nineties the entire culture was one of lets get pissed. Football violence/hooliganism was at its worst in the late seventies and the majority of the eighties to see, what excessive drinking did to the mind set of opposing fans, this is not to exclude the other influences on the violent conduct, adding copious amounts of alcohol can be seen as adding petrol to a simmering fire.
Toward the end of the eighties a new trend was seen to be sweeping the country, described by the media as “Acid House Parties”. Adults gathering together to listen to music all night, take MDMA, (Ecstasy) dance the night away, whilst not touching a drop of alcohol. Returning home the next day on a great high. No hangover, did not have a bad night due to drunks in the towns. Very little expenditure, when these so called Parties first started the MDMA was free and pure and there was no admittance fee. Best of all did not have to listen to the appalling noise that was Brit pop music that did nothing for the soul and only appealed if one was under the age of 13. Coincidently with the availability of ecstasy on the increase we saw a drop in football hooliganism, ecstasy cannot take the entire credit some has to go the authorities for changing the infrastructure surrounding the watching of football within stadiums.
During the early part of the 1990s Night club owners, Publicans and the Breweries began experiencing a down turn in income, there were several reasons for this, fairly high inflation, low wages, high unemployment, restrictive legislation governing the availability of entertainment, and small windows of opportunity when establishments were open, and the lack of a “Drink Culture”. For those working and able to afford to go out and consume alcohol, it was a mad rush to get home from work, change, have something to eat, and get out before everywhere was shut.
Those within the Industry approached the government asking for a review of the licensing laws as their industry was suffering, they cited that it was mainly down to the rave culture, conveniently forgetting several other contributing factors. The then Conservative government had concerns with the rave culture;
- They were unable to Tax these events.
- They had no control over them.
- They were unable to engage with this culture.
The governments decision was to hold a review of the licensing laws, whilst to include within the CJB (Criminal Justice Bill), Sections that outlawed the setting up of Raves, an act that would serve to criminalise those wanting to dance the night away in friendly surroundings without alcohol. The review was going to take time therefore the Publicans and nightclub owners began employing Rave DJs trying to entice punters to their establishments. This worked totally in the favour of the Raver, there was somewhere to go for a warm up until 02:00am in the morning then off you’d go to an underground rave until the sun was up. It backfired on business because they had not taken into account, “we only wanted to dance”. Alcohol had no place, a side effect of MDMA and the absence of a “Drink Culture”.
With the review of the licensing laws, Nightclubs were able to remain open longer, gained extensions on the times that alcohol could be served, Supermarkets, Wine bars, Lap Dancing clubs Café bars, outlets of all descriptions all competing to get you as drunk as possible suddenly began springing up, the length of the high street. The unavailability of pure MDMA, the clamping down by local authorities on the Rave culture, and the heavy-handed tactics used by police forces when breaking up these harmless events. (It is a misconception that the organisers had no respect for the countryside or others. Most raves were sited away from residential areas, and the crews spent up to two days making sure they left the area as they found it.)
This combination of actions pushed vast numbers into alcohol consumption, the competition to sell the cheapest drink pushed the price even lower. The coalition of the drinks Industry and the past two governments served to encourage the consumption of alcohol on a vast scale. In effect once again becoming a peddler of an addictive and intoxicating substance. If the nation is inebriated there is less chance of it turning on the government, “Social control” comes to ones lips.