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Richard Siddle: lobbyists give drinks industry clean bill of health at party conferences

Published:  13 October, 2011

When temperatures nudge past 80 degrees we are normally in the midst of what the national media refer to as the silly season. The months of July and August when the politicians disappear off to Tuscany and there is nothing to fill the papers than stories of ducks being stuck down chimneys or similar tales of animal derring do.

When temperatures nudge past 80 degrees we are normally in the midst of what the national media refer to as the silly season. The months of July and August when the politicians disappear off to Tuscany and there is nothing to fill the papers than stories of ducks being stuck down chimneys or similar tales of animal derring do.

The past week of silly season-like weather has coincided with the end of the party conferences, a time when the drinks industry traditionally puts on its collective tin hats ready to be hit over the head with wild allegations, threats and news of some impending legislation designed to win favour with party activists, and get headline grabbing coverage in the popular press.

But this year has been different. Unless I missed some anti-drinks levy buried in the small print the party conference season has passed with the drinks trade not getting the slightest mention.

It seems the drinks lobbyists have achieved the ultimate goal of being seen around the LibDem, Labour and Conservative party conferences, but not, as it were, heard.

Keeping below the radar is the best we can hope for when it comes to political lobbying these days and it seems the good school report Health Secretary Andrew Lansley gave the trade at the recent WSTA conference is shared by the other political parties.

Things are bound to be less cosy north of the border when the Scottish National Party hosts its conference later this month. Not only can we expect a return to form there but the weird, wild and wacky won't just be allegations, but potentially policy statements to be implemented in Scotland.

This week the drinks trade, never mind consumers, in Scotland is struggling to come to terms with the new drinks promotions policy that bans the use of discount multi-buy offers, BOGOFs and the like.

But that could just be the amuse bouche before the main course of minimum pricing of alcohol is force fed on the Scottish public sometime next year.

Let's hope our drinks lobby has saved all its energy to put our case to the SNPs later this month.

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