|Channel 4 scientist at work|
This has to be seen to be believed. Tonight, Antony Barnett (pictured above) will be doing his bit for the cause of minimum pricing by making a programme about 'binge drinking' (a phrase that already sounds like it belongs in a nostalgia show called I Love 2004).
I dare say that you can expect plenty of footage of drunks fighting and falling over in the street, but don't expect to hear that there has been an 18 per cent decline in alcohol consumption in the last decade, or that binge drinking amongst 16-24 year olds has been falling for years, or that there is less violence today than there has been for twenty years, or that alcohol taxes in Britain are amongst the highest in the world.
What you can certainly expect is the most laughable attempt to 'prove' that minimum pricing 'works' that has ever been broadcast. Dispatches—for it is they—have provided this parody of science in its trailer. I had to watch it twice to make sure I wasn't dreaming. Basically, they got some young adults who like to have a few drinks before they go out (so-called 'pre-loading') and brought them to an off licence.
"We set up a little experiment. We mocked up a few shelves at Mr Shiraz's off licence and applied a minimum price of 50p on similar drinks to those they'd bought earlier."
"And we told them they could only spend the same as they'd spent before—up to £8 each."
I beg your pardon?
"...we told them they could only spend the same as they'd spent before—up to £8 each."
Let's get this straight: you get people who are buying cheap alcohol and then you put up the price to see if they buy more or less alcohol, but you prevent them from buying more by capping how much they're allowed to spend.
Are you kidding me? The central question about minimum pricing is whether people will drink less or spend more. If you stop them spending more, obviously they are going to drink less, but it's not very realistic, is it? Or does the minimum pricing policy also involve a dingbat in NHS glasses physically restraining anybody who tries to spend more money on alcohol than they used to?
Having rigged the experiment with an all-important caveat, Barnett concludes with the following triumphant conclusion...
"With the same amount of money there was a difference in the amount of alcohol they bought."
No kidding! It's, like, a miracle or something.
"The results show that a minimum unit price of 50p has led to them buying roughly 30 per cent less alcohol."
Well, that's one in the eye for the sceptics. Get that sucker written up and submitted to the Lancet.
Good grief. If this is the trailer, how bad of the rest of it going to be? Find out on Channel 4 at 8pm.