As it happened, I was sharing a bottle of wine with a surgeon when the news came through that the government plans to impose a minimum price on a bottle of wine. The surgeon was utterly scornful of the government’s strategy. A sensible policy, he explained, would be to encourage people to drink more wine, not less. All the medical studies have shown that people who have a few glasses a day have a much lower incidence of heart disease and live longer (not to mention are happier, although the research doesn’t cover happiness) than teetotallers. I didn’t need a doctor to tell me that, it’s common knowledge nowadays, but what I didn’t know, until the doctor told me, was that you won’t get sclerosis of the liver if you haven’t got the gene for it. Anyone lucky enough not to have the gene can drink to their heart’s content, if they feel so inclined, without fear of liver damage.
A few publicans are smiling quietly to themselves at the thought of the extra business they’ll pick up when there’s a minimum price in the supermarkets. But those with the widest smile are the owners of the supermarkets themselves who can’t believe their luck that they’re being forced to raise their prices, which will bring them windfall profits, which they won’t have to share with the Exchequer. Those private lunches with the P.M. seem to have paid off in spades.