jamie goode's wine blog

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Alcohol regulation: is minimum unit pricing the answer?

Looks like Scotland may soon get further alcohol regulation in the form of a minimum price per unit. According to this BBC news report, a minimum price of 40 p per unit would save many lives. This would make the lowest price for a bottle of wine 3.60.

The alcohol industry has campaigned against this sort of intervention, but the current government sentiment is one where they are almost bound to take some sort of step to lessen the social harm of cheap alcohol.

I was discussing this issue with Chris Losh on the way back from Noval. He's an experienced trade and consumer journalist who has written quite a bit on these issues. Chris reckons that the industry has basically ceded ground to neo-prohibitionists simply because it hasn't come up with any strategies of its own. It has simply opposed every form of regulation that has been proposed.

I agree with Chris that the best form of regulation would be for the drinks trade to campaign for a ban on alcohol price promotion. While this is undoubtedly more complex than it seems initially (Where does it leave bin-end sales? What can show owners do with slow moving stock?), I think it would be the least problematic of all strategies.

It would make it much harder for supermarkets to use drinks as a loss leader. It would create a level playing field [surely there has to be a less tired metaphor than this?] for wine sales. It would do away with these depressing soft brands that are priced artificially high only to be discounted deeply.

And it would force Laithwaites to change their business model, too.

The question is, in the long-run, would the consumer suffer? Do consumers really benefit from price promotions as they are now?

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Political aside

Couldn't help but blog on a subject that I'm loathe to broach here - politics. [The risk of offending readers is too high, but then a blog that doesn't take any risks can be a dull read.]

The BBC has just run a story here about an aside allegedly made by David Miliband at the Labour party conference, in which he seems to indicate that he deliberately toned down his speech because he's keeping his powder dry for a future leadership challenge.

Now I'm not a terribly party political person, but I've found it fascinating to watch what has happened since Tony Blair gave the leadership of the Labour party, and the job of prime minister, to Gordon Brown. It seems obvious that Brown, while a highly competent cabinet minister and intelligent person, is not really a leader. Leadership is a relatively rare quality, and only some people possess it. You can spot leaders, because people instinctively want to follow them - that's why they are called leaders.

Gordon has been coached and coached, and you can see he's trying to do all the right things, like smile, and be personable, and crack jokes. But it all looks so rehearsed and so false. If he walked into a room, people wouldn't terribly much want to be near him. Even though he's the prime minister. The poor bloke has got the top job - the one he has been longing for - and it has turned into a living nightmare because he can't carry it off.

I suspect that everyone in the Labour party of average intelligence and above knows it would be madness to approach the next election with Gordon at the helm. Yet, for now, there is this show of faux unity. Like the pursuit cycling event we all watched for the first time at the Olympics this year, timing is everything (this is the event where the two cyclists, who are racing each other, almost stop, waiting to see who will make the first move). Within the higher echelons of the party, there exist natural leaders, and foremost among these is the as-yet inexperienced Miliband. Sooner or later, it seems inevitable that he will make his move. As I said, timing is everything, and it is fascinating to watch.