It seemed as though common sense had broken out in Westminster when ministers announced plans to extend opening hours for England’s World Cup games this summer.
Within hours however, Police, Magistrates and Daily Mail hacks were warning of the carnage that would inevitably follow as fans kicked lumps out of each other whilst celebrating the inexorable march of the mighty national team to World Cup Glory.
Cue more photographs of staggering drunks, girls in gutters and bleeding heads. Steel yourselves for further reports of how the evil of alcohol continues to turn our streets into hell on earth and our consumers into moronic, evil minded monsters. I am quite surprised that the Zombie Killing Computer Gamers have not yet moved to wiping out the pub goer.
Such commentators might be surprised to learn that alcohol has been present in this country for centuries and, here’s a real revelation, so have young people. Until quite recently they have managed to co-exist relatively peacefully though I am the first to admit that we are currently witnessing some isolated but appalling scenes of antisocial behaviour in and around our pubs and town centres.
We also witness similarly appalling behaviour on our council estates, recreation grounds and street corners where the nearest pub might be miles away. We hear of appalling lack of discipline in schools, with teachers and pupils assaulted on a daily basis. To the best of my knowledge, we have not yet started to sell cans of Kestrel in the school Tuck Shop or offering free shots with the free school milk.
The real issue is not the presence of alcohol, it is the absence of respect. This in turn has led to a systematic breakdown in law and order with the police unable or powerless to intervene in antisocial behaviour and the courts unwilling to impose meaningful sentences on those thugs who repeatedly flash two fingers in the face of society.
In the sixties, seventies and eighties, beer was cheaper, in real terms, than it is today and consumption levels were significantly higher. There were more pubs, more discos, more nightclubs and more young people using them. There was also more fear and respect for the law. Troublemakers were hauled off to the cells and magistrates dealt with them robustly. Drinkers, even the highly irresponsible and undesirable ones knew exactly how much they could get away with and where the line was drawn.
Now the police just stand by and watch the trouble fester and explode whilst the courts simply invite the thugs to hone their skills by returning them with soft psychological counselling ringing in their ears and the distant threat of a jolly good telling off if they find themselves in court again for the eleventh time. Twelve strikes and it’s and ASBO for you my lad!
Nobody denies that alcohol has an effect on a person’s mood and behaviour but responsible licensees have never been better trained or equipped to deal with trouble makers. What a shame that they are constantly let down by the people that their excessive tax and duty payments are funding.
If you have been involved with, or had to deal with antisocial behaviour, in or around the pub, please share your experiences and solutions with us.