Friday, March 20, 2009

Not Fit To Run A Northern Wreck Whelk Stall

Northern Wreck has lived up to its nickname with the spending watchdog confirming what many knew all along, the hapless bunch at the treasury weren't fit to run a whelk stall, let alone oversee the taxpayers' takeover of the Rock. 

A damning National Audit Office report has exposed the monstrous cock-up, as ministers hid the scale of the bill which taxpayers were being asked to pick up. 

Even the BBC's business editor and treasury moonlighter, Robert Peston, reckons the report was embarrassing for Brown and Darling as "a spotlight has been shone again on their misjudgements". Though adding the caveat: "none of which will surprise you". As if that miraculously makes it all right. 

"We've known for many months that they were wrong on these very big issues," he added, cryptically.

The Orange Party is mystified as to the identify of the royal "we" to which Pesto refers. 

With an election round the corner, the Tories are spitting blood over biased BBC coverage, with Cameron's warning dirty tricks would be used against them by New Labour. It seems they are already happening.

On the day the public deficit soared by £9 billion and Cameron made a key-note economic  speech, the BBC evening news bulletin was blocked out with three "news items" padded out with time-filling back reporting, before Cameron even got a mention. And only then as a fag end, dropped into a long-winded report on the axing of the Motor Show. 

Today the BBC is reluctantly reporting the Rock, allowing Brown to take centre stage, droning on about "doing the right thing" in what was a gross error of judgement. 

The NAO found the treasury still allowed Northern Crock to lend £800 million in risky 125% mortgages for six months after it was propped up with taxpayers' cash.

And the treasury was aware of "potential shortcomings" in how to deal with failing banks as far back as 2004, when Brown was chancellor. Even the Telegraph was sounding a warning back in 2007 with this ominous profile of then CEO Adam Applegarth

That begs the question: Why didn't the treasury demand an immediate stop to the reckless lending that got the bank into trouble in the first place?

True to form Brown's deputy Mandelson has been spinning away and reckons "saving Northern Rock, stabilising it, turning round the business as we are doing now is the right decision." 

But the NAO slammed the treasury for not thoroughly checking out the bank's finances before nationalising the bank. And the report reveals greater scrutiny would have uncovered a much higher level of mortgage arrears than the Rock had previously been admitting.

Months of dithering around led to "major due diligence failures at the Treasury both before and after nationalisation" which has resulted in the bill for taxpayers being even bigger than was previously thought.

By the end of December 2008, 33% of all Rock mortgages had fallen into negative equity and with arrears mounting up, the treasury had to give it a further £3 billion financial cushion in July 2008.

Despite all the taxpayers cash, Northern Rock recently announced a loss of £1.4 billion for 2008. LibDem economic oracle, Vince Cable, branded it a disgrace: 

"With billions of pounds of public money at stake, the least taxpayers should expect is that basic due diligence of the company's loan book should have taken place before nationalisation."

Often what Cable says gets lost in translation. A monstrous cock-up at the taxpayers expense is equally close to the truth. 


Murdoch Comes Over All Jewish

Master Of The Universe, Rupert Murdoch, has delivered a robust defence of the state of Israel with a warning the survival of the West depends on its rise or fall. Murdoch is a powerful player on the world stage and in the main stream media and his influence should not be underestimated. On this issue, His Master's Voice deserves to be heard.

Wearing one of his many media hats, Murdoch used a speech to the American Jewish Committee to deliver his diatribe against growing anti-semitism and the future of Israel, as the West continues to "reach out" to Iran and its band of international murderers.

Pointing out that he isn't Jewish, he did have the brazen cheek to try to take credit for practically inventing the word chutzpah

As the recent conflict in Gaza and pseudo-liberal news bias has shown, public debate is becoming poisoned by a rise in anti-semitism which many thought had been confined to the dustbin of history. 

The Orange Party has no time for the pseudo-liberal posturing of politicians and media such as the BBC and Channel 4 News, whose distorted opinions and news values get them in a right pickle. 

Blatant anti-semitic bias was vividly demonstrated in the recent coverage of the Gaza conflict, love-bombing the Jew-hating, gay-bashing preachers of hate in Iran and its web of terrorists. 

Murdoch points out: "In the end, the Israeli people are fighting the same enemy we are: cold-blooded killers who reject peace, who reject freedom and who rule by the suicide vest, the car bomb and the human shield."

And he asks if "we in Europe and the US can survive if we allow the terrorists to succeed in Israel"?

In the US, Obama continues his misguided and dangerous policy of "reaching out" to Iran with "a new beginning", aided and abetted by his new poodle Brown, who seem oblivious to a regime that backs the thugs of Hizbullah and Hamas and is now on course to acquire a nuclear weapon to wipe out Israel. 

Murdoch gives a warning over the recent attacks in India where Islamic terrorists singled out the Mumbai Jewish Centre to torture and kill the victims in a well-planned and well-coordinated attack. That particular outrage, which was practically ignored by the western liberal media, is a test run for similar attacks in similar cities around the world. 

In Gaza, dead Palestinians serve the warped political propaganda purposes of Hamas. Only now is the true scale of the Hamas atrocities becoming known. But Iran-backed thugs of Hamas get away with this, as it rules by fear and intimidation, accountable to no-one but itself.

In the global media war, which Murdoch knows a thing or two about, he questions media coverage of the Gaza conflict.

Images of Palestinian deaths have led some to call for Israel to be charged with war crimes by an international tribunal. Why do we never hear calls for Hamas leaders to be charged with war crimes?

Why do we hear no calls for human rights investigations into Hamas gunmen using Palestinian children as human shields? Why so few stories on the reports of Hamas assassins going to hospitals to hunt down their fellow Palestinians? 

And where are the international human rights groups demanding that Hamas stop blurring the most fundamental line in warfare: the distinction between civilian and combatant?

Fine words now from Murdoch but a tad hypocritical. Where was his vast media empire at the time? Busy going with the flow to 'sell newspapers'. 

There is passionate disagreement on many social and political issues and points of view, raised by Murdoch in his Times and saucy sister the Sun but here is one powerful, lone dissenting voice in the mainstream media to counter the illiberal anti-semitism of pseudo-liberals. 

The Orange Party doesn't always see eye to eye with this megalomanic media monster whose tentacles spread across the world. But in this sense, chutzpah is probably the best word to use. 

There's a strong disapproval for a lot the Dirty Digger has done and said but on the issue of Israel and the Jewish people, there is a grudging admiration.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Who Will Rid Us Of This Turbulent Debt?

Eye-watering levels of national debt are revealed today as the country plunges further into the red, with the government's borrowing binge now soaring to a staggering £9 billion in February alone. 

But New Labour ministers are burying their heads in the sand, leaving new Tory Cameron to have a stab at what to do about it. 

The dire state of public finances is revealed in record figures for the month, bringing borrowing in the 11 months of the financial year so far to £75.2 billion, the highest since records began in 1993, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The worsening state of the economy was also driven down by government tax receipts, which plunged almost 10% over the month, compared to a year earlier, as the recession tightens its grip. 

The £75.2 billion figure has rocketed to more than three times the £23 billion recorded a year ago.

That borrowing blows out of the water useless chancellor Darling's forecast of £78 billion for the current financial year, with economists predicting the figure could reach £90 billion or higher. 

As the government's own official unemployment figures top the two million mark and continue the upwards spiral, a rise of £1 billion in social benefits takes that total to £12.1 billion.

The UK is now labouring under a debt burden of £717 billion, more than £100 billion above a year earlier, with questions asked whether political parties are hiding behind a conspiracy of silence.

The mind-boggling figures leave ministers in a quandary, refusing to come clean about the miserable mess they've created and what they now plan to do about it. Ministers simply talk the economy up and talk the debt-burden down. 

But Cameron and the Tories are still caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. With such an horrendous debt, the truth may be hard to stomach amid accusations of scaremongering and, with drastic action needed, prompting the question - if things are really so bad then exactly what  action is proposed when they eventually take power. 

New Labour ministers seem quite content to live in economic la-la-land, knowing full well they'll be out on their ears in a few months time. 

For both the Tories or New Labour the only solution will be the once political suicide note of higher taxes and spending cuts, now on the cards whoever wins the election.

The Orange Party believes honesty is the best policy, even for politicians. Voters are grown up and economically savvy enough to be able to take the truth on the chin rather than the spin. 
And Cameron, to his credit, is starting to warn of spending cuts, albeit still treading rather carefully. 

As the general election draws closer and the phoney war hots up, the new Cameron is more bold and upfront but he needs to do much more to explain how the public finances will be restored on his watch and where exactly the spending axe will fall.

Today the Cameron election battle cry was: "We’re all in this together ... That means we must solve Labour’s Debt Crisis together. We will reduce this deficit together. Paying down our debt must not mean pushing down the poor."

The state must now achieve "more for less" with spending, as he pledged greater scrutiny to boost efficiency, scrapping wasteful ID cards and an end to the culture of "quango fat cats".

Those views chime with voters and that's why New Labour doesn't stand a cat in hell's chance of any more years in power.


College Shambles Comes Crashing Down

Pie in the sky plans to create shiny new  college cathedrals to New Labour learning have come crashing down around the government's ears, with a mixture of incompetence and broken promises leaving the building programmes a shambles, as funding cash dries up. 

Colleges in England face going bust as they embarked on a massive £5 billion rebuilding programme on the back of a promise the funding would be available. 

Now saddled with debt, some students are packed into temporary accommodation. No buildings means no students and no income to repay the loans.

Some 144 college building projects in England are on hold while the monstrous quango, the learning and skills council (LSC), dithers around after promising funds for refurbishment. 

Now, as the colleges face going bust, they stand to lose £100 million because of the delays in construction. 

The amount of cash needed is eye-watering. The 79 schemes approved in principle would cost nearly £2.7 billion, with another £3 billion needed for the 65 colleges that had also submitted bids.

But the cash had to come from somewhere and with the recession starting to bite, banks are increasingly reluctant to stump up the cash.

The government is in a complete pickle and the LSC could face legal challenges because they had given assurances to colleges over the funding.

But in a classic case of the left hand not knowing what the right is up to, the LSC, which has approved 8 projects, says "it has always been perfectly clear that full funding and final approval was not guaranteed and that colleges were proceeding at their own risk".

Branding the delays as “a quite extraordinary catalogue of incompetence”, exacerbated Tory spokesman, David Willetts, said ministers need to come clean on the scale of this problem. "At every stage we've had to wring information from them using freedom of information requests."

Colleges were "actively encouraged" by ministers to go ahead with works and "now they are all at a standstill because of this extreme mismanagement."

Skills minister, Sion Simon, has admitted the programme “has not been managed properly” by the LSC and even its own quango doesn’t know how and what mistakes were made.

Refusing to accept any of the blame, ministers have resorted once again to their favourite trick and appointed  a trouble-shooter to investigate delays and look into the mistakes.

Colleges are not the only shambolic building plan which is starting to eat itself and disintegrate, as a damning report on the government's over ambitious plan to refit every secondary school recently revealed it is up to £10 billion over budget and almost two years behind schedule in a discredited PFI sham.

Like the college rebuilding, the scheme to renovate England's secondary schools could grind to a halt because banks are not lending money as building firms struggle to raise the cash needed to take part in the £45 billion 'Building Schools for the Future' scheme.

The college confusion illustrates the reality behind the delusions of Brown's pledge to bring forward capital works as the recession bites and makes a mockery of the spin to give priority to training and apprenticeships which are at the heart of further education.  

Fine words are one thing but with a government living on borrowed time with borrowed money, delivering on an over ambitious and unrealistic promise is quite another. 


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lethal Legacy Haunts Ministers

A lethal legacy of misguided failures is coming back to haunt New Labour ministers, yet these hapless hypocrites hide behind a shield of accountability, blaming everyone but themselves. Shuffling up and saying sorry to parliament just isn't good enough.

Last week it was a damning report into the scandal of Baby P, this week an equally damning report from health watchdogs on needless deaths at a Staffordshire hospital. 

The arrogant response to both from ministers was to say 'sorry'. Burying their heads in the sand, sweeping it under the carpet, forgetting about the pain, suffering and deaths.

Both Brown and his health secretary, Alan Johnson, were quick to say sorry to parliament today. But not for the sorry state of their misguided and useless policies in the NHS which has left 400 dead. 

Brown apologised for the appalling failings at what has been branded a 'Third World' hospital. Johnson waded in and apologised for the "pain and anguish" caused.

But both steadfastly refused to own up to their  failures and mistakes. 

The deluded prime minister rejected suggestions NHS targets had contributed to the problems, instead blaming it all on "low standards of management."

But the damning report from health watchdogs exposed a bunch of health chiefs obsessed with form-filling and targets, while squirrelling away millions of pounds which could have been spent on helping patients. 

As with the Baby P scandal, when children's secretary, Ed Balls, refused to shoulder any of the blame, ministers can play the blame game and pass the buck on to someone else. 

Yet it is the obsession with form-filling, targets and a hospital more bothered about saving cash for a trust status bid than spending taxpayers' money on patient care, which is at the heart of the problem.

Tuesday's healthcare commission report revealed deficiencies at "virtually every stage" of emergency care and managers pursued targets to the detriment of patient care.

And NHS watchdogs said Staffordshire Hospital put the bid for foundation status ahead of patient care and up to 400 people died needlessly.

The report cited low staffing levels, inadequate nursing, lack of equipment, lack of leadership, poor training and ineffective systems for identifying when things went wrong.

But it's that pursuit of targets and a form-filling culture which are at the heart and that's down to government policy.

Targets and the application for foundation trust status are no excuse for neglecting responsibility to patients' safety but clearly they were.

The catalogue of failings identified by the report is a horrifying indictment of the way targets are placing financial goals ahead of the patient.

Once gain this exposes the target driven culture, where ministers and managers are obsessed with the process rather than the outcome. 

A management process of hospital or child protection administration, rather than putting the patient or the child as the number one priority. 

A process where, if everything looks good on paper, then it must be all right. Where managers spend all their time putting the final touches to some ludicrous trust status bid imposed on them by the very government which now hides away from any responsibility.

Arguing the toss over the rights or wrongs of Blairite New Labour policies and vision is one thing. Letting that get in the way of reality, when people suffer and die as a direct result of those miserable ideals, is a shocking indictment of a blind discredited vision which should be confined to the scrap heap, before any more pointless deaths. 


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Sinister Purpose To Common Purpose?

A shadowy outfit, called Common Purpose, is lurking in the political undergrowth. When New Labour cronyism and lackey-stuffed quangos appear on the political radar, its 'leaders', with meaningless buzz-words, are not far behind. 

Is Common Purpose a secret society bent on world domination or just a way of getting a lift up the career ladder, with jobs for the boys and girls? 

More than 20,000 self-styled 'leaders' have attended Common Purpose courses but only the chosen ones have heard of it. It seems you've got to be in it to win it.

A quick Google of 'Common Purpose' unearths a can of worms, with websites dedicated to exposing what they claim is a secret networking organisation at the heart of the establishment, with a hidden agenda and influence.

Prominent supporters include BBC business editor and treasury moonlighter, Robert Peston, and the Met's  'shoot to kill' cop, Cressida Dick. 

But that's just the tip of an iceberg with the tentacles stretching out to top public sector officials, the BBC, police, church, many of New Labour's quangos, councils, the civil service and regional development agencies. 

Surprising numbers of lawyers are CP members. In the NHS, with bureaucrats outnumbering hospital staff three to one, it's no surprise CP membership is at the heart.

Trying to get to the truth depends on who you want to believe but the brave BBC has made a stab at it with a fair and balanced report broadcast on the Jonathan Maitland show and now filed on BBC on line news.

Common Purpose was backed by John Prescott's office of the deputy prime minister (ODPM) and its notional chief executive is Julia Middleton who used to work in the ODPM. 

Back in the glorious Blair years, it was involved with the disastrous Millennium Dome Company and the squandering of £800 million of taxpayer's cash.

The organisation organises training and networking events for so-called 'high-fliers' operating in the cities with many people involved but  not declaring themselves.

The CP website says: "Common Purpose gives leaders the inspiration, the knowledge and the connections they need to produce real change - in their workplaces and in their communities."

But Brian Gerrish, who leads a campaign against Common Purpose, believes this is a smokescreen: "It's a secret society for careerists. The key point is that the networking is done out of sight of the general public. They are operating a highly political agenda, which is to create new chosen leaders in society."

The conspiracy theorists believe Common Purpose is trying take over the world. Shaping people to work to its hidden agenda of promoting a European super-state, forcing diversity on society and imposing political correctness.

But the organisation's website says: "We are always balanced and owe no historical or other allegiance to any other group."

Common Purpose is a registered charity but with a covert if not overt political agenda, there are calls for its charity status to be be revoked.

Over £100 million of taxpayers cash has been spent on CP courses which don't come cheap. 

A Freedom of Information request by Conservative MP, Philip Davies, revealed the department for work and pensions had spent £238,000 sending its people on Common Purpose courses between 2002 and 2007.

While there is no evidence that Common Purpose has anything to hide, it is not the most open organisation. Its meetings are held under the 'Chatham House Rule', which means everything that is said is unattributable.

But Common Purpose 'graduates' from the New Labour unelected and unaccountable quangos and the Regional Development Agencies do have the power to award large sums of public money to projects.

It is on the issue of Europe where the greatest contention lies, with Common Purpose identifying 'leaders' in all levels of government, in what they call “the post democratic society” of an all powerful EU. And EU grants and funding keep pouring in. 

Time and gain the public is bombarded with the narrative of New Labour language, political correctness and management initiatives which seem to focus on the process rather than the outcome. That was recently blasted by Lord Laming's review of the Baby P scandal, where part of the government solution is - more leadership courses. 

The New Labour language chimes with that of Common Purpose. Talk is of empowering communities, vision, mainstreaming, working partnerships, regeneration and celebrating diversity. Documents are littered with the buzz words of  change and reorganisation.

The Orange Party doesn't believe this is a secret sinister society plotting to take over the world - that's best left to the Masters of the Universe or Simpson's Stonecutters. 

But those in Common Purpose do share a common purpose with the New Labour brand and have a vested interest in keeping a doomed government in power. With that government bent on creating an explosion of quangos and agencies stuffed with faithful followers, people will join up to join in and get on. 

At worst it's an example of cronyism, all unseen to the prying eyes of the general public. And that can lead down the dangerous path of fraud and corruption. 


Even A Hairshirt Won't Save Brown

Beleaguered Brown has finally made a mealy-mouthed, half-hearted apology for the mess he made of the economy during his long stint as chancellor. But his weasly words only scratch the surface in a cunning move to try to wrong-foot the Tories, as his party political electioneering hots up. There's  no sign of 'sorry' and what he is apologising for is not a lot. 

Brown used his New Labour loving pals over at the Guardian to spin an 'apology' for his part in the economic crisis, by admitting he could have taken tougher action to curb the financial markets when he was chancellor. 

Led by Brown cheerleader, Patrick Wintour, the Supreme Leader only admits ‘full responsibility’ for all his actions in the run up to the downturn, in an interview  clearly designed as a blatant party political electioneering puff.

Until now, the deluded prime minister has steadfastly refused to say sorry for his part in this country's downfall by blaming everything on global this and that.

But anyone who thinks this is some kind of full blown apology should think again. Brown doesn't do apologies, he plots. There are words of apology but you've got to look hard to find them and he's certainly not gone far enough.

What is he apologising for? Not for selling off the gold reserves at a knock down price. Not for cosying up to his greedy pals in the City and letting them rip the heart out of the economy. Not for using smoke and mirrors off balance sheet accounting to make everyone think things were better than they actually were. Not for creating the very false boom years which have now come crashing down our ears. 

No. It's just more of the same old bullshit and we've heard it all before. The prime minister acknowledged that he should have pushed for concerted international reform in the aftermath of the Asian crisis of the late 1990s. And that's it.

Last week, Tory leader David Cameron did say 'sorry’ but that was for cosying up to Brown last year and buying into the pretence that everything in the economic world was rosy. 

Cameron played his cards right and came out well, boosting his credential as prime minister-in-waiting. For Brown, even wearing a hairshirt sackcloth and ashes won't be enough to escape the wrath of the public and the voters. 

Everything Brown does he does in the interest of Brown. He lives and breathes wrong-footing the Tories and plotting a general election to his political advantage and today's spin of an 'apology' is just part of that cunning plan and political fight-back ahead of the election. 

If Brown thinks this will close down the whole sorry issue and get him off the hook he's got another think coming. Brown and the gang are on the run and the Tories can smell blood. 

Cameron can now congratulate Brown for having the courage to apologise and then stick the knife in by listing all the things Brown should have apologised for - but didn't. 

But the economy is only one aspect of the fag end of this government. At the heart is a government riddled with internal treachery, sleaze and general arrogant denial, led by a prime minister and Downing Street spinners who are flannelling and floundering away while they make the last desperate throws of the dice. 

Today's leader in the Sun captures a public mood, highlighting "sleazybag" Keith 'Vaseline' Vaz and his odious dealings as the 'descent into the sewer continues':
"Cops were quick to march into the Commons to arrest innocent Tory Damian Green to keep Home Secretary Jacqui Smith sweet. Will Jacqui now break off fiddling her expenses and send in the cops to arrest Vaz? The evidence is solid... In the House of Lords Labour peers take cash in exchange for changing the law, while in the Commons a Labour MP tries to bully a judge.
"We are at the last knockings of Labour’s long run, and they are going out on a tidal wave of sleaze. Everyone from the Speaker downwards is grabbing what they can before the ship sinks.
"And nobody ever resigns or is sacked any more. Even when they’re caught with their hands in the expenses till, they brazen it out and carry on pilfering." 
With friends like that, who needs enemies?


Monday, March 16, 2009

Softening Us Up For A Booze Tax Hike

Beer drinkers are being softened up for a swingeing tax hike as the government gets itself in a pickle over the price of a pint. Booze is the latest political hot potato but posturing over a pint belies the key cause of binge drinking which ministers are quite happy to sweep under the carpet. It's the ludicrous lax licensing laws, stupid. 

The reason for binge drinking is obvious - the ridiculous relaxation of licensing laws. It's not what you drink but where you buy and drink it. But that would require a massive step change from a government which isn't exactly quick to come forward and say sorry for past mistakes. 

Thanks to New Labour, it's now all style and no substance. A cafe culture, wine bars, gastro pubs. And strictly no smoking.

But we live on a wind swept island in northern Europe. Our staple alcoholic drink is beer like rest of northern Europe. And we like to chat in a cosy public house. 

Some people given half a chance would booze all day. Strict licensing laws were introduced to get the workers to the factories sober rather than sitting in a pub using Huxley's 'chemical crutch' to escape despair and desolation.

Pubs disappeared in a mixture of New Labour political correctness and greed and in came cheap supermarket booze and binge drinking. Now cheap booze from supermarkets is killing the pub and a way of life.

Supermarkets selling cheep beer and wine, high rents and price increases from suppliers, greedy shareholders in the breweries, 24 hour opening and the blanket smoking ban. It's all part of the pub shambles as the glorious vices of pint, a fag and packet of crisps are eroded away. 

The Orange Party believes all the fuss over the price of alcohol as a cure all for all the binge drinking and unhealthy ills is a ruse, a softening up exercise for higher beer taxes.

Imposing a minimum price for alcohol would be illegal probably under the EU rules so beloved of this government, a tax hike wouldn't. 

Last year, chancellor Darling hiked the duty on beer by another 4p a pint, wine by 14p a bottle and spirits by 55p a bottle, 6% above the rate of inflation. 

More importantly, his pre-budget report in November proposed raising the alcohol duty escalator by 8% a year from April. 

The government is bent on embarking on a spending spree on borrowed time and raising indirect taxes is its only solution. 

With all-party support, the hike in alcohol tax can be cunningly presented as a laudable aim to cut the scourge of binge drinking and improve the nation's health. It's not a tax rise at all, more a social necessity. 

Medical chief, Liam Donaldson's, calls for taxes to be raised on alcohol has left Darling nursing a big hangover, with the brewing industry demanding a cut in beer duty.

The chancellor can stop more pubs closing down by ending the escalator in alcohol duty on beer and freezing the beer duty for a year. That's exactly what Brown did for  ten years as chancellor - for the Scottish whisky industry.

But he won't and  the price of alcohol is on the way up. 

Donaldson's aim to stop binge drinking on cheap supermarket booze and force pubs to scrap 'happy hour' cut-price deals is no bad thing but it only meets the problem half way, not confront it head on. 

It's a change in drinking culture that's needed. And that shouldn't be difficult. It only means winding the clock back a few years. 

The way to tackle the problem is to change back the licensing laws, if the government is as serious about binge drinking as it is about increasing the treasury coffers.

Go back to the old laws with alcohol sales highly restricted, to be consumed in licensed pubs between strict, reasonable opening hours. 

The answer to binge drinking and unhealthy over the top boozing, whether it's at home, on the streets or in the pubs, boils down to availability, not price. 

So bring back the 'off-licence', a separate, dedicated easily controlled outlet selling alcohol, instead of the supermarket free-for-all.

But returning to stricter licensing hours and cutting back on the availability of booze might cut consumption and that wouldn't go down at all well in the  treasury.

Picture: William Hogarth, Gin Lane (1751)