23 Mar 2012

David Cameron’s alcohol epiphany

Why is David Cameron, who once worked for a booze company, backing a minimum price for alcohol? Friends say he was struck by how successful the smoking ban introduced by Tony Blair has turned out to be and struck, too, by how completely wrong he feels he himself was in opposing that ban. He’s seen graphs (disputed by some cabinet colleagues) showing lines depicting where alcohol abuse goes in this country without minimum pricing.

Tories in the west country were particularly hostile to something that would hit cider amongst other drinks. He failed to convert cabinet opponents like Andrew Lansley who have instead decided to row in behind the PM but have not shared his epiphany.

Last night, George Osborne spoke to business leaders at a post-budget briefing at Tory HQ to tell them how he sees the budget and to ask them to come out and support it. The CBI can’t do this on their own, was the message. I have announced decisions you all wanted that are “politically painful” (ie I’ve cut the top rate), now you need to shout your support for it all and to invest.

On the Granny Tax, it’s worth remembering that at the last election 44 per cent of over 65s voted Conservative, compared with 31 per cent who voted Labour. IpsosMori polls suggest while some younger voters have switched allegiance, the older ones have pretty much stayed put with the exception of a few ex-Lib Dems swinging to Labour.

Interesting to see if it moves after the headlines yesterday. I was struck (not physically) at a pensioners’ line-dancing club in Lewisham yesterday by how few pensioners had actually bought a newspaper that day. They’d got their information off the TV news, formed a pretty dim view of what was going on but were, for the most part, not in open revolt.

Come for the bus pass, they said, and that would be very different.

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