x

Join our Mailing List

Subscribe to our mailing list to receive regular email updates of ResPublica's work, upcoming events and recent blogs from the Disraeli Room.

The Disraeli Room

The Disraeli Room

Blog Post

Reclaiming Temperance – Establishing a responsible and sociable drinking culture

6th February 2015

Britain has for centuries repeatedly faced the problem of binge drinking. As this article from January 1903 demonstrates, our current travails in tackling problem drinking are hardly new. What is required but is rarely addressed is culture change. When it comes to the consumption of alcohol we are arguably at a key moment where social attitudes are changing. People are increasingly appalled at the worst behavioural problems associated with late-night excessive drinking and want to see change, but what is lacking is the institutional and cultural architecture to foster that change.

Part of the problem is that the Temperance movement has been historically associated with abstinence, teetotalism and even prohibition. For Brits, Dry January may be a widely adhered to month of self-denial motivated by both perceived health benefits and more especially financial necessity, but the somewhat puritanical total self-denial that became the main practice of temperance advocates including Wilberforce has meant that we have lost the true meaning of temperance when it comes to the enjoyment of drink. Temperance is a virtue, an espousal of moderation which, yes, does involve personal restraint and delayed gratification – but one thing it is not is total abstinence.

We need to pursue, as a country, a joyful recreational and (properly understood) hedonistic but sociable approach to the wide variety of tasty alcoholic beverages that are available to us and, in particular, how they are best combined with eating well as a common social experience to be celebrated with friends and family across all generations. To be avoided is a simplistic authoritarian approach which often involves some sensible measures but alone is certainly inadequate, if not counter-productive. Indeed the attempts outlined in the Government’s Alcohol Strategy have yet to decisively address the problem – as shown by a recent WHO Report which ranked the UK 13th out of 196 countries for heavy drinking.

That recent discussions are even happening about charging people for using A&E when a clear contributing factor to their misfortune was the fact that they were under the influence shows that what is seen as acceptable behaviour is changing.

Culturally, drink driving is now understood to be completely unacceptable. Smoking indoors in pubs, clubs and restaurants (and soon in cars with children) is now viewed so negatively that it is banned across the board.

So it is becoming with the disorderly and sometimes violent conduct associated with irresponsible levels of drinking. Simply put, the overwhelming majority who enjoy alcohol sensibly and socially are pretty fed up with a significant minority ruining it for everyone else. But given that ‘drunk and disorderly’ and ‘drunk and incapable’ have long been offences that the police have powers to deal with, new work needs to be done to resolve this issue that is particularly blighting our town and city centres.

Let us, early in this century, finally break with the historical pendulum that has swung from excessive binging to puritanical abstinence. To this end, ResPublica, within our Virtue programme, is seeking to develop a radical new policy model consistent with the principles of restorative justice and genuine temperance that will equip communities across the country to finally deal conclusively with this persistent problem within our nation.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

Child Protection in the Digital Age

I was delighted when the Government introduced its Digital Economy Bill in the last session which gave effect to the 2015 General Election manifesto commitment...

A stake in it for everyone; why Conservatives should support regulation of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals

FOBTs or B2 machines are highly addictive, one way we know this, according to research conducted by the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, is that FOBT...

Championing renewed leadership in governance and business practice

It didn’t get to the point where we saw ‘Save Unilever’ held aloft on placards outside Downing Street, yet there was widespread unease about Kraft’s...

Industrial Strategy: A positive start but more must be done

The Government revealed their industrial strategy this week, with three main aims: Build on our strengths and extend excellence into the future; Close the gap...

Who can give the modern Cathy a home?

It’s 50 years since Ken Loach’s groundbreaking film, Cathy Come Home, documented the inhuman effects of homelessness. Without a home, as his heartbreaking film shows,...

We need a manufacturing resurgence more than ever. How can we bring it about?

There’s been a familiar narrative emerging since Thursday’s vote – this was the left behind white working class getting one over the London-centric political and...

The economic impacts of a Brexit would make us more, not less, reliant on other countries

Yesterday’s letter from Ford to its employees was the latest chapter in the economic debate on Britain’s EU membership, which has largely focused on the...

Mutuals and Co-ops Can Be The Very Best Option!

The Quest for John Lewis Quality Public Services for Wales Wales has often been characterised by a radical political tradition that exists to promote a...

Book Review: ‘Taking Power Back: Putting people in charge of politics’ by Simon Parker

Nearly a year before the 2015 General Election, the Chancellor George Osborne announced that the country needed a ‘Northern Powerhouse’: an attempt to bring together...