If there’s one thing Britain’s famous for – other than queueing, the Queen, stiff upper lips, choking in penalty shoot-outs and its dark but largely unspoken history of colonialism – it’s pubs.
You love pubs, we love pubs, everyone loves pubs, except for one tiny detail: they just keep bloody closing.
The number of pubs in the UK has declined by around 30% since 1980, from 69,000 to 50,000, as pressures from rising rents, beer duty and changing fashions have stacked up – but the Labour manifesto has promised to try and halt this boozy slump.
They have guaranteed to list all pubs as “assets of community value” in an effort to stop them being sold off to developers such as supermarket chains. Meanwhile, it will also promises to set up a national review to find out exactly why they’ve been closing in such numbers.
The manifesto reads: “Labour will give communities more power to shape their town centres, by strengthening powers to protect post offices, community pharmacies, high street banks, sports clubs, pubs and independent shops, and promote measures to decrease high-street vacancies.
“We will set up a national review of local pubs to examine the causes for their large-scale demise, as well as establishing a joint taskforce that will consider future sustainability.
However, they also say that beer duty will continue to rise, guaranteeing only that there will be “no above inflation” increases if they are elected.
UKIP – the party who, to be fair, have probably done most to subsidise pubs, given Nigel Farage’s insistence on conducting a photoshoot at one practically every day of the week – have responded to the promises with scorn.
Current leader Paul Nuttall, who is a long time advocate of the party’s ‘Save the Pub’ campaign, wrote: "Labour has announced plans that are intended to tackle the decline of pubs however, they will do anything but that.
"Their plans demonstrate a complete lack of joined up thinking. Whilst guaranteeing to list all pubs as "assets of community value" to help stop them being sold off to supermarket chains and the like is laudable, when combined with an refusal to rule out a rise in beer duty it is nothing but an empty gesture. Protecting pubs from becoming supermarkets, while at the same time reinforcing the supermarkets’ ability to undercut pub prices is fantasy economics, and a cruel fantasy at that.
"Ever rising beer duty is driving pubs out of business. Labour's ‘plan’ would kill pubs through tax, while thumping a few extra nails in their coffins as pub co.s and publicans would be condemned to penury by ever rising beer duty and unable to offload failed assets due to a universal listing of pubs as assets of community value. On a case by case basis it is good that pubs can be listed, but it is not always the best solution.
"Labour's policy makers may be confused, as despite their name, Public Houses are private enterprises first and foremost. They are treating pubs like state owned community centres. What brewers, publicans and pub-goers alike need is a sensible plan to save the pub, Labour's is not it."