BEER and budgets go together, and Cole’s law of politics dictates that it is easier to swallow the beer than the budget, especially when it’s Boris and Rishi’s round.
This image doesn’t quite work as Boris Johnson surely never buys any drinks. I picture him patting his pockets in mock-search of his wallet and then asking someone else to pay. As for Rishi Sunak, he is an immensely wealthy teetotaller who pretends to be part of the prosecco posse.
Budgets nowadays seems to be all about the politics anyway, a rush of printer’s ink to the head before anyone has worked out what’s what.
As a man who does his modest best to support the brewing industry, I shall attempt to assess the headlines with a morning-after squint.
A cut in duty on draught beer by 3p a pint is something, although this boozy proclamation from the no-booze chancellor may not be all it seems. This cut appears to apply only to barrels or kegs of 40ltr or more – a size bigger than many of smaller breweries use.
This seems to be a cut mostly designed to help the big brewers. As York beer man Rich Mellen, head brewer of Ainsty Ales, pointed out on Twitter: “… it only helps your tory mates who run the multinationals or super breweries. This doesn’t help the 3000 microbreweries in the UK. How were you lobbied? Free beer in every spoons?”
Johnson and Sunak went to a brewery to be photographed before the budget, and the publicity snaps are all over today’s front pages.
One shows Sunak mock-groaning as he pretends to lift a barrel, and Johnson holding up a barrel, clearly empty, while pulling a face somewhere between a grimace and a smirk, and a long way from a sight you might ever wish to glimpse again.
He looks like a polar bear with piles, although perhaps now I should apologise to all my polar bear friends.
The photos were taken at Fourpure Brewing in Bermondsey, south London, an area that was on my patch as a young reporter in the 1980s, a down-at-heel but proud place in the days before trendiness landed.
Brilliant news on alcohol duty cuts. A welcome move in support of the brewing industry and beyond for our friends and customers at pubs and bars. Cheers to that🍻 https://t.co/WrCO0qkkGq
— Fourpure Brewing Co. (@fourpurebrewing) October 27, 2021
It is interesting to wonder why businesses submit to these political stunts. The brewery put out a tweet proclaiming the cut in duty, even though the size of the barrels mock humped by Johnson and Sunak suggest that Fourpure may not qualify for the cut.
Whatever the case, the comments beneath the tweet are telling, and here are a couple:
“Posing with Johnson and Sunak bad idea! Your beer has a bacterial infection so I won’t be buying it anymore.”
“Won’t be drinking your beer again then…”
One of those photographs ended up on the front page of the Daily Ex-Press Release alongside the headline: “Cheers! Rishi on a mission to cut taxes.”
Call me picky if you must, but a mission to cut taxes doesn’t usually involve raising taxes to their highest rate since the 1950s. This budget is another distraction, a clutch of headlines held together with sticky tape and catchphrases.
Boris Johnson’s favoured trick is to repeat something so often that it appears to be true. He did that when he “Got Brexit Done” (still not done) and he does that every time he mentions “levelling up”. He doesn’t wish to be judged on whether that levelling up ever happens. No, he just thinks that if he says a thing often enough, people might just believe him. And too many sections of the media are happy to oblige.
Perhaps the media should try judging Johnson on what he does and achieves, rather than what he says he’s done and achieved; there is an important difference.
At the least the Daily Mirror front page gets it right…