The problem is not among the middle classes discretely quaffing Chablis behind closed doors, nor is it the binge drinking of our disadvantaged youth.
After all, as David Cameron would have it, a hug could lead hoodies into practising pilates or engaging in other forms of self-improvement rather than indulging in a life of hedonism.
No, the root of the UK’s drink problem lies ad-jacent to the corridors of power in the bars of Westminster and Whitehall. It’s here that ministers and MPs knock back the state-subsidised hard stuff like there’s no tomorrow.
What besides booze-fuelled thinking could explain our leaders’ recent behaviour and decision-making? For example, Gordon Brown declared war on plastic bags in the same week that the liquidity crisis drove Nationwide, which once branded itself a consumer champion, to put up the cost of borrowing for clients who can’t cough up 25% deposits.
Brown says: “I want to make it clear that if government compulsion is needed to make the change we will take the necessary steps. We do not take such steps lightly but the da-mage that single use plastic bags inflict on the environment is such that strong action must be taken.” This comes from a man who is backing the expansion of Heathrow Airport – obviously not an environmental issue – and who took six months to make a decision about the future of Northern Rock.
And Brown has yet to tackle the liquidity crisis that continues to damage the financial services industry and the housing market while steadily eroding consumer confidence.
It’s no wonder that Hector Sants, chief executive of the Financial Services Authority, re-cently told Radio 4’s Today programme: “I don’t think markets are ever going to return to the way they were.”
Sants clearly hasn’t got much faith in himself or the government, which is worrying. He didn’t see the liquidity crisis coming but is now warning lenders not to use it as an excuse for putting up mortgage rates, saying they must treat their customers fairly.
Let’s hope this fairness doesn’t extend to lenders having to follow the base rate down when the market tells them to do otherwise.
In the meantime, let’s toast the fact that the government has taken us back to the 1960s. After all, it was a happening decade.
Back then, you had to save with a society for several years before qualifying for a mortgage – and even then you had to assume the position and beg to get the money you needed.