Drink related violence is creating no-go areas in England's towns and cities according to the Independent. But that has not persuaded Gordon Brown of the merits of minimum pricing, as favoured by his own health minister Andy Burnham, as well as The Royal College of Physicians and just about every other body of medical opinion. Interesting that Burnham, who presumably consulted widely on the issue, was opposed in Cabinet by the Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy and the chancellor Alistair Darling as well as Brown. Now what do these three have in common again? Ah yes, they all occupy Scottish seats. The health of their own constituents is a matter for the Scottish Parliament, where the opposition, including Labour, has vowed to block attempts by the SNP government to introduce minimum pricing. If Westminster backed the policy - as its own cross party health committee has already recommended - that would obviously embarrass the Labour Party in Scotland. It would expose Iain Gray's poor judgement and cynicism - two of his own ex-health ministers, Susan Deacon and Malcolm Chisholm publicly backed the SNP proposal. .
I wonder how the English people identified in The Independent as being scared to walk through their neighbourhood because of aggressive drunks feel about this? A policy that would reduce liver disease, cut violent crime and save the NHS a fortune has been ditched because the SNP thought of it first. It's a sort of West Lothian question in miniature, in this case a whisky minature. The cabinet Scots, hailing from a country which drinks 25% more than the rest of the UK, are determined to poison Britain's not-quite-so-inebriated nations as as well. I'd be outraged if I lived in Tunbridge Wells...
Labour does have one health-related justification for its stance - it is terribly allergic to the nationalists and has been very poorly since May 2007 when it was deprived of what it believed was its divine right to rule Scotland. Allowing Alex Salmond any kind of positive legacy would be fatal to its chances of securing power at Holyrood again.
For more on the background, read my recent column Iain Gray is harming himself and others