Monday, 12 November 2012
The Plight of the Pub!
King James the First was a nasty piece of work, in my book. OK, the Bible was good, but he really did have a mean streak.
He did not approve of pubs anymore than he approved of, well, anything really. He decided that public houses were for the lodging and relief of travelers and wayfarers, and so he passed an act restricting the proletariat to a mere one hour of drinking at lunchtime each day.
Henry VIII had not been much better for the brewing trade. His vandalism on the monasteries led to the slaughter of many of the best brewers of the day. Cromwell's soldiers followed in that particular tradition.
In 1880, Gladstone introduced his Inland Revenue Act, which effectively eradicated domestic brewing - that is, pubs that made their own beer. Fast forward to the 20th century, and we see the number of brewers licenced in Britain decline sharply from 6,447 in 1900 to a mere 162 by 1973. Nice one, Gladstone!
Mergers in the middle of the century saw many household names swallowed up to vanish completely - Grand Metropolitan Hotels in particular hoovered up breweries amid shameful false promises to preserve their identities before closing them down in all but name. At the same time, the breweries themselves, afflicted with a kind of communal madness, began tearing the guts out of the old Victorian pubs and gin palaces, and creating ghastly 'corporate brands'. At the same time, the taste of the drinking public moved towards awful products that no contemporary beer drinker would want to touch.
Most recently, in -home entertainment driven by fast moving technology, high taxation, and cut-throat market forces have driven drinkers out of pubs and into their own homes. Social trends change constantly, and pub culture, whilst it still exists and remains an important part of our lives, is competing with market forces, cosmopolitanism, and increasing consumer sophistication. Do you really want to be transported back to the 1970s, and a smoky bar, Skol lager, chicken in a basket, and closing time at 2.30pm? I strongly recomend Kate Fox's excellent book 'Watching the English' for more on this subject.
According to UKIP, this is all David Cameron's fault. I am not entirely clear as to what this has to do with leaving the EU, but I think UKIP left that particular ideology behind when it transformed itself from political pressure group into a cult movement. According to UKIP it is the PM who is to blame for the woes of the pub.
Perhaps UKIP will come up with a good reason for sending kids up chimneys next? Damn the EU, putting young people out of work like that!