Curmudgeon News - July 2000

This month's items include:

  • Happy, Sexy and Fat
  • Police Win Powers to Close Thug Bars
  • Drink-Drive Double Standards
  • Voters But Not Drinkers
  • Thousands Convicted by Faulty Breathalyser
  • Blair Son Drunk and Incapable
  • Drunken Thugs Face Driving Ban
  • Irish Government Orders Lower Pub Prices
  • Tesco Bring Back the Pound
  • UK Worst for Petrol Prices
  • Smokers Defy Health Warnings
  • Perfume Causes a Stink

Complete News Index


  • Happy, Sexy and Fat

    Research by world-famous Nobel Prize-winning geneticist James Watson, one of the original discovers of DNA, suggests that fat people are happier than thin ones. It also indicates that plumper women are likely to enjoy a better sex life. Extra fat has the effect of boosting the natural mood-enhancing chemical endorphins. "Thin equals discontent", Watson says. The study also establishes a link between the drop in crime rates in the USA and the rise in obesity. There's a fundamental truth here - it's normally lean and hungry people you see causing trouble, and how many mass murderers were tubby? And it makes me feel even more at home in my comfortable physique (not that it worried me before). Pie and a pint, please!

  • Police Win Powers to Close Thug Bars

    Police are to be given sweeping new powers to close down "hooligan pubs" which have a history of violence. Police will be able to shut pubs and clubs immediately for 24 hours if they are violence hot-spots. If an establishment has not taken steps to clean up its act, the police could extend the order for another 24 hours before going to the licensing authority and asking for the place to be closed down. Fair enough, I suppose, but it depends so much on police discretion - and just look at the way they have carried out vendettas against country pubs. It may also give a hostage to fortune if we move into an era where there is a more anti-drink climate in public opinion, when it could be used to close perfectly decent, responsible pubs on the slightest pretext. Maybe this is the real motivation behind the government's plans for the supposed "liberalisation" of licensing law. Leave well alone is what I say.

  • Drink-Drive Double Standards

    The widow of a twice-commended policeman who hanged himself after being forced to resign because of a drink-driving conviction is considering taking his former employers to court alleging they had applied double standards in their treatment of him. Carrie Ellis said she felt her husband Richard had been unfairly treated by Hertfordshire Police who had allowed six other officers convicted of the offence in the past four years to keep their jobs. On the face of it, this is a gross example of hypocrisy and double standards. The police should apply consistent criteria to their officers who are caught breaking the law - either all are dismissed for particular offences, or none are. And the police are notorious as some of the keenest drink-drivers, as their "canteen culture" often revolves around heavy drinking, and they known very well which areas are being targeted for enforcement, and can avoid them.

  • Voters But Not Drinkers

    A senior Scottish Nationalist politician has called for the vote to be given to teenagers as young as 16. Andrew Wilson, the party's finance spokesman in the Scottish Parliament, said it was unfair to pay tax to a government which they have no say in electing. "At 16," he said, "you can buy cigarettes and lottery tickets, but you can't select the government that sets the duty on the fags or regulates the National Lottery". I wonder if he thinks 16-year-olds should be able to drink in pubs legally as well. And this goes against recent trends that have seen serious proposals for raising the legal age for both smoking and driving to 18. However, it would be unlikely to make much difference, as under-25s are already far less likely to vote than over-50s. Maybe they should think about increasing the legal voting age to 40, so people will have put all those naÔve juvenile enthusiasms behind them....

  • Thousands Convicted by Faulty Breathalyser

    Thousands of motorists may have been wrongly convicted of drink-driving following research that indicated a commonly used model of breathalyser could over-read by up to 8%. Scientists at the Royal London School of Medicine found that the Intoximeter EC/IR, used by dozens of police forces, typically produced results between 6 and 8% higher than the longer-established Lion 6000. However, the Home Office stated that they remained satisfied with the accuracy of the equipment. Sounds like a major miscarriage of justice to me - so why arenít the civil liberties pressure groups up in arms and demanding public inquiries and resignations? They seem to have a very selective view of civil liberties that completely excludes both drivers and pubgoers. And, if this proves to be true, remember that these are not guilty people seeking to wriggle out of a loophole, but innocents who have been wrongly convicted, in many cases resulting in loss of livelihood and family breakdown.

  • Blair Son Drunk and Incapable

    Prime Minister Tony Blair's 16-year-old son Euan was arrested for being drunk and incapable, after being found by police officers vomiting on the pavement in London's Leicester Square. An ambulance had to be called, but paramedics decided there was no need for the teenager to go to hospital. Instead, he was taken to Charing Cross police station where he initially gave his name as Euan John, gave an old address and told officers he was 18. The previous week, Tony Blair had proposed in a speech that drunken troublemakers should be given on-the-spot fines, an idea immediately dismissed by senior police officers as unworkable. I've been there myself, in the dim and distant past, so you have to have some sympathy for both Euan and his parents. But I couldn't avoid a good smirk of schadenfreude. And it clearly illustrates the principle that people who live in glass houses should think long and hard before throwing stones.

  • Drunken Thugs Face Driving Ban

    Drunken yobs and violent offenders will have their driving licences confiscated and be banned from entering any pub under plans being drawn up on the orders of Tony Blair. His advisers say that for young people with a high disposable income, a "lifestyle sentence" such as a driving or pub ban could have a greater deterrent effect than a fine. However, some Labour MPs fear it could turn into another debacle akin to Blair's recent call for violent drunks to be marched to a cashpoint machine and fined on the spot by the police. The idea was immediately dismissed as unworkable by senior policemen, and condemned by the AA. Another foot-in-mouth job along the lines of the cashpoint fiasco - itís good to see that Blairís obviously lost his touch. Many yobs will continue to drive despite being banned, and others who are trying to be responsible will find a ban will curtail their prospects of getting a job, or mean them being sacked from an existing one. And itís unreasonable to hand out differential punishments according to whether or not you have a driving licence - what equivalent is proposed for those who do not hold a licence?

  • Irish Government Orders Lower Pub Prices

    The Irish government plans to order publicans to cut the cost of pints by up to 40p, in a belated effort to control runaway inflation, which has reached a 15-year high of over 5%. Publicans, who make 400% profit on some drinks, are now being blamed for fuelling inflation, as are restaurateurs and hairdressers. The government, which contributed to the inflation spiral with generous tax reductions in successive budgets, now plans to intervene in the services sector to push inflation down. Ministers believe that businesses are taking advantage of the current economic climate to make excessive profits on the prices of food and drink. It is now expected that the government will introduce a price order for a list of 16 alcoholic drinks, setting a maximum price at the lowest level that currently exists in the market. Hard to see that happening this side of the Irish Sea. However, our market is very different, with increasing price competition between pubs in some areas, and the impact of cheap booze from the Continent much greater than in Ireland. But pubs here continue to rip people off where they think the market will stand it.

  • Tesco Bring Back the Pound

    Supermarket chain Tesco is returning to selling food using pounds and ounces because it says consumers do not understand metrication. The store took the decision after a survey of more than a thousand customers showed nine out of ten still used imperial measurements in their heads. Under European regulations enforced at the beginning of the year, the metric system of grams and kilograms must take precedence over imperial. Scales at the stores' fruit and vegetable and deli counters will feature both measurements so customers have the choice. Scales measuring products at the till will remain in metric, so the scheme complies with EU law. A good piece of PR, and a sensible compromise - nobody is yet forced to use metric measures only. How long before Asda, Sainsbury's and all the rest follow suit? It also underlines the fact that, although the metric system has been taught in schools for forty years, people still find it much more convenient to think in terms of traditional measures. Surely, then, Trading Standards should indefinitely suspend any further action against small traders who are not in a position to fork out thousands to acquire dual scales.

  • UK Worst for Petrol Prices

    The UK now officially has the highest petrol prices in Europe, and thus in the entire developed world. With a litre of petrol now priced at 84p, UK motorists pay an average of over £140 to travel 1,000 miles. Austria tops the best-value table with petrol at 53p a litre, with Spain second at 54p and the Republic of Ireland third at 61p. This is pure highway robbery, and has done little or nothing to reduce road congestion - clear evidence that, for most journeys, there is no practical alternative to the car. Other European countries have reduced fuel duty to compensate for higher crude oil costs - so why can't Gordon Brown? If you're unhappy about the situation, visit the Boycott the Pumps website and register your support. Just as with tobacco and alcohol smuggling, petrol bottlegging across the Irish border has now become a major problem, as prices in the Republic are so much lower.

  • Smokers Defy Health Warnings

    High taxes and hard-hitting public health campaigns are doing little to persuade smokers to give up their habit. The average Briton is smoking less than five years ago, but only by the equivalent of one packet a year. The story is similar in the rest of Europe, amid signs that smoking is becoming fashionable again, especially among women. Further proof that constantly giving people patronising lectures about the evils of tobacco is counter-productive and just leads them to switch off. And of course the UK's punitive taxation politices have simply driven smokers into the arms of bootleggers, who now account for over 25% of the market.

  • Perfume Causes a Stink

    There are reports of a growing trend in North America to make public places and workplaces fragrance-free zones. Studies apparently indicate that between 15 and 30 percent of the population report a sensitivity to chemicals, including fragrances. "If it's happening in the States, it will be happening here in 10 year's time," says Tim Brown of the National Society for Clean Air and Environmental Protection. The latest ludicrous manifestation of political correctness. And will they then say that pungent body odours are unacceptable - and if they are, what can you do about them if you can't even use perfumed soap? And the question must be asked, what about fart aromas?

Complete News Index

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