Six leading health groups have dealt the government a blow by refusing to sign up to its new "responsibility deal" on alcohol in England.
Do these health groups sell alcohol? No. So how is the non-cooperation of a bunch of pompous, unelected temperance groups a "blow" to an agreement made between the drinks industry and the government? Why have these zealots even been asked to "sign up" to it in the first place?
The deal covers voluntary agreements with the drinks industry on issues such as promotions and labelling, aimed at tackling alcohol abuse. But the organisations, including Alcohol Concern, accused ministers of not being tough enough on the industry.
Well, duh. There is nothing the government could do to "industry" that would silence Alcohol Concern for more than five minutes. And let's remember that "industry" is a euphemism for "drinkers" since that it is they who would be penalised by Alcohol Concern's proposed tax hikes.
The full details of the responsibility deal have yet to be unveiled...
Not that that has stopped the anti-alcohol lobby from queering the pitch and undermining the government before the plans have even been anounced.
...but under it, the drinks industry would be expected to sign up to a number of alcohol pledges.
Let's face it, there's only one kind of pledge that interests Alcohol Concern.
These reportedly include ensuring 80% of products on the shelf are labelled for unit content, raising awareness of the unit content of drinks in pubs and clubs and taking action to reduce under-age drinking.
There would also be a pledge to commit to action on advertising and marketing by promoting responsible drinking and keeping alcohol adverts away from schools.
The health groups said they had lost confidence with the approach because of the lack of clarity over what would happen if industry did not meet the commitments.
You're kidding, right? We know exactly what happens when industry fails to capitulate to "voluntary agreements". Let's cast our mind back to the previous government's 'voluntary agreement' on alcohol:
It is not known how many drinks firms will sign up for the scheme, but ministers said if the industry did not comply, the government would introduce legislation.
Or its voluntary agreements on food:
Cheese makers say they are under pressure to slash levels of salt to meet the Department of Health's targets.
Although Whitehall is encouraging voluntary reductions, it could force companies to reduce salt by law if they are slow to act.
As the Devil so rightly says:
Uh oh: we all know what these fuckers mean when they say that something is voluntary, don't we? That's right: it's voluntary unless you don't do it—in which case it becomes compulsory.
But back to the Beeb...
They said the pledges were neither specific nor measurable, they lacked scope and there was no evidence they would even work.
Ho, ho. A bit like minimum pricing and plain packaging, then?
Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, said: "It's all carrot and no stick for the drinks industry and supermarkets.
Isn't that what nudging is all about? Don, have you considered that people respond better to incentives than to threats, or are you really just interested in beating industry with a stick for the hell of it?
"By allowing the drinks industry to propose such half-hearted pledges on alcohol with no teeth, this government has clearly shown that, when it comes to public health, its first priority is to side with big business and protect private profit."
Who does this fellow think he is? Why should his opinion carry any more weight than that of any other crank on the street? Why, above all, does the government continue to pay for a temperance society which can barely scrape together a few thousand pounds in voluntary donations? From fakecharities.org:
Its 2008/09 accounts show a total income of £1,137,582, of which:
Department of Health (restricted grant): £142,000
Department of Health (unrestricted grant): £400,000
Big Lottery Fund: £127,275
Total £669,275 (58.8% of all income)
It received just £8,186 in public donations.
Really, Lansley, could you stop using our money to fund your—and our—enemies?
And if Don Shenker's chutzpah isn't nauseating enough, how about this from the British Medical Association?
The BMA has thought long and hard about walking away from the table but ultimately we do not feel we have any option.
Can someone remind me how many candidates the BMA put up in the last election? How many votes did they get exactly? It must have been a lot, otherwise they would risk coming across as unbelievably arrogant making statements like this. But fear not, because the temperance alliance's official statement indicates that there could still be hope for the peace process:
The alcohol health community remains completely open to dialogue with the government and is prepared to continue to engage in discussions about how industry can act as responsible producers, distributors and promoters of alcohol.
How gracious! How magnanimous! Bloody hell. At this rate the provisional wing of the "alcohol health community" will be turning up at Number 10 to discuss "talks about talks".