Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Plod Way Off Beam

It appears that West Yorkshire's top cop has been living in some kind of cave for the last few years. In a startling outburst, Sir Norman Bettison claimed the Licensing Act has made Britain's binge drinking problem worse.

The outburst comes just a day after the British Beer and Pub Association released a YouGov survey showing that 78% said they drunk the same and 12% less than before the onset of extended opening hours. Speaking at the National Alcohol Conference in Leeds, West Yorkshire chief constable Sir Norman Bettison said many were now drinking themselves into "oblivion". He recently spent a Saturday night on patrol in Leeds city centre and said "If anybody tries to tells you that 24-hour drinking will lead to the creation of a European cafe culture, send them out on to the streets of Leeds - you won't find many people having a sensible conversation over an espresso."You won't believe the amount of vomit and urine I saw that evening."

Well putting aside the fact that the problems of late night drinking appear to have crept up on this guardian of the law, you are forced to wonder what his motivation is. He seems either very naive or has conveniently forgotten his licensing history. He quotes a "24 hour drinking culture", a creation of tabloid headline writers, which he and everyone who really understands pub and drink culture trade, knows does not really exist.

I wrote myself about this some time ago in "More Beer" my local CAMRA magazine. In that article I pointed out that young people's drinking venues, which pollute and proliferate in our town and city centres, were there in abundance before licensing reform. These venues were already open to two and three in the morning. The horse had already bolted. Fine if he wants to curb that (it won't affect the vast majority of decent beer drinkers) and of course the law now gives him that power, but better that someone who is supposed to police without discrimination, didn't lump all us drinkers in with the idiots whom he meets at 2 am in Leeds! Like most responsible beer drinkers, I am fast asleep by then and haven't urinated or vomited on anyone or anything. Not even on myself!