In The Naughty Corner With You, Says Oliver

by Dick Puddlecote

Some years ago, I found myself being invited to a Conservative Party fund-raising dinner. I’d never been a member of the party so it was something that came right out of left field.

It turns out that a letter I’d had printed in a local newspaper, in conjunction with an e-mail I sent to a Tory PPC, was the reason for my inclusion on the guest list barely two days before the event. I’m still at a loss as to why they made this offer, but as it was usually £50 per head and I was getting nosebag for free, who was I to grumble? Especially since the guest speaker was Oliver Letwin – one of the composers of the Tory manifesto – and a post-dinner question & answer session was promised. Ideal for getting my gobby self close enough to quiz a high profile politician at first hand, I thought.

Come the Q&A, there wasn’t much chance of my hand being ignored as I held it up constantly through three long answers to previous questions. I think it was rather off-putting to Letwin as he kept firing a sideways glance to see if it was still there. As a result, I was handed the microphone soon after.

My question, as you might have guessed, was that Labour had aggressively attacked the lifestyles of working people with restrictions on what we consume, and did his party intend to get off of our backs and reverse some of these policies.

His answer was long-winded to say the least. Typically for a politician, he ran through many of Labour’s illiberal measures, with reference to the European arrest warrant, detention without trial etc, and eventually – after two or three minutes – tacked on a sparse few seconds about the nanny state before declaring that “yes, we will roll back laws to afford more freedoms to the public.”.

Of course, we’ve since seen that if there were ever any plans to give us back any freedoms, they must have been in those papers he was chucking in a park bin last year. We’ve seen nothing of the sort.

Now, the very same guy is saying stuff like this.

Oliver Letwin MP, minister or government policy, has described minimum unit pricing as “one of trying to affect behaviour” with regards anti-social drinking habits.

Yet another, then, who doesn’t actually believe you should have any freedoms at all. Well, not unless they are those politicians have decided are in accord with their own personal preferences, anyway.

He stressed that in no way did the government wish to “eliminate people ever drinking again,” …

Oh how very generous of you, Oliver. However, that this should even need to be stated is proof that these people have gone too far. Of course government should not be wanting to eliminate drinking, they are our servants, not our masters, have they forgotten?

… but also added that it was extremely difficult for an administration to hit upon the right solution.

The solution is to ignore the incessant and shrill wailing of tax-sponging lobby groups and professional prohibitionists, and instead mould the state round how we taxpayers – who fund it, remember – wish to live. I know that would involve being brave and saying no to a few entrenched civil servants, but that’s what a spine is for.

He continued that on the one side it was necessary that those selling and promoting alcohol were doing so responsibly but he also stressed the need to have a population that “of its own free will, will choose to behave in a responsible way”.

Responsible according to whom? Well, the government, of course. So, just to translate, Letwin is saying that he wants us to enjoy our own free will as long as it is in a way that he and his chums have decided that we should.

“We can’t use ‘blunt’ legislative action to restrict the amount people are consuming. We can’t introduce the ‘Alcohol In Moderation Bill’ it’s just not practical.”

… Yet.

“How can you adjust attitudes? That’s why it’s a field of experimentation. We could, in theory, raise the minimum price to a level which makes it impossible for any but the extraordinarily rich to buy but people would find a way round it.

“Similarly, it can’t be too low as it wouldn’t have any effect. Minimum pricing is an effort to achieve a subtle behavioural effect.”

Here’s a radical idea. You could always try to just do nothing and let the market – that is, us the public, remember us? – decide what prices are acceptable and what aren’t. You see, Oliver, as one of the aforementioned ‘extraordinarily rich’, you couldn’t give a monkey’s bawbag either way, could you? So you should have absolutely nothing to do with dictating the prices that the rest of us have to pay (in another account of his speech, he declared that he wanted plebs’ drinks to be “unpleasantly expensive”). Just stick to your state-funded high quality wine and champagne and leave us to decide if the price of a slab of Carling is acceptable or not, OK?

He even suggested that it would be possible to “adjust policy as evidence emerges as to the effects” on how successful they are proving.”

Yes, yes. We’ve known for a long time that the price level set for minimum pricing will be ratcheted rapidly upwards once you lot forever burden us with it. But thanks for the further confirmation.

The election rhetoric of 2010 is almost a lifetime away, isn’t it? Change? What change?

2 responses to “In The Naughty Corner With You, Says Oliver

  1. (0. Focus on alcohol related social and health problems)
    1. Introduce minimum pricing
    2. Suggest to police that they ‘review’ crimes with alcohol as a factor to regular crimes and/or that Health Trusts reduce alcohol-related figures
    3. Cite 2 above as proof of the efficacy of 1 and suggest that greater benefits could be had by increasing the minimum price
    4. Make alcohol a controlled substance
    5. Outlaw, or otherwise restrict sale/use of alcohol to state-sanctioned facilities

    6. Put down Scottish Rebellion?

  2. One of the first actions of Mr Cameron as Prime Minister was to instruct minister to read a book called “Nudge” (written by Cas Sustein – the husband of S. Powers, who I know of from another context…..).

    I had already heard of this vile tome from Glenn Beck (this was back before he went off to the fortress in Dallas – with the ex special forces guards and so on), and for a moment I (in my stupidity) actually thought that Mr Cameron was engaged in a “know thy enemy” exercise.

    Of course he was not – he thinks that “Nudge” (i.e. totalitarism by the installment plan) is a lovely idea. His membership card for the Fabian Society might as well be sent out now.

    This book is actually part of three books (writen by different people – but who support each other).

    The other two are “Freakonmics” and “Thinking: Fast and Slow”.

    The message of all three books is the same.

    Humans are not really beings – we are not really capable of reason. We are manipulated (an old line of Progressives – going back to the year dot) and the only question is – who should manipulate us.

    Should it be evil big business – out to rob us and make our lives short and unhealthy. Or should it be a wise and noble elite (the authors of such works as Freaknomics, Nudge, and Thinking: Fast and Slow) who are somehow an exception from the humans are not really beings line.

    The authors may say “we are all Homer Simpsons sometimes” but it is clear that they mean “the ordinary people are Homer Simpson – we, and those wise enough to accept what is in our books, are not Homer Simpson”. They (the wise and noble elite) will manipulate us “for our own good” in order to “make us happy” as well as healthy and so on.

    There is nothing new or scientific in all this stuff – Plato believed in it, and so did Francis Bacon (see “The New Atlantis”).

    And the “science” was mocked by Ayn Rand back in the 1950s (with the fictional book “So You Think That You Think” in her Atlas Shrugged).

    Oh by the way, it was from “Nudge” that the English language gets the oxymoron “libertarian paternalism” – these people have no shame, none at all.