BBC And Guardian Played Like Fools On Minimum Alcohol Pricing

3 Oct

by Dick Puddlecote

This is a message from the highly irresponsible blogosphere.

You know, the one that Andrew Marr once portrayed thus.

“A lot of bloggers seem to be socially inadequate, pimpled, single, slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed, young men sitting in their mother’s basements and ranting. They are very angry people.

“OK – the country is full of very angry people. Many of us are angry people at times. Some of us are angry and drunk. But the so-called citizen journalism is the spewings and rantings of very drunk people late at night.

“It is fantastic at times but it is not going to replace journalism.”

Perhaps he is referring to top quality journalism like this in the Guardian, for example.

The lives of 5,000 older English people who drink too much could be saved each year if the government sets its promised minimum price for alcohol at 50p a unit, new research suggests.

Academics at Sheffield University produced the estimate for next Monday’s edition of the BBC’s Panorama programme, which highlights the growing problem of over-65s drinking dangerously.

It repeated, without question, the conclusions of the BBC who – in turn – repeated, without question, the ‘evidence’ provided to them by the University of Sheffield. Apparently, over 10 years, 50,000 old people would be miraculously saved by a 50p minimum alcohol price.

All very well, except that the claims were disastrously wrong, as admitted this week.

Correction 28 September 2012: The main figure in this story has been amended from 50,000 to 11,500 after it emerged that there had been an error in the calculations carried out for Panorama by the School of Health and Related Research at the University of Sheffield.

Wow! That’s a pretty significant cock-up, isn’t it? Well, yes. So much so, that the BBC iPlayer edition of the show has been pulled until it can be re-recorded!

Correction: 28 September, 2012:

The School of Health and Related Research at the University of Sheffield has confirmed to Panorama that unfortunately, due to human error, figures they produced specifically for the programme Old, Drunk and Disorderly? broadcast on 10th September 2012 were incorrect. The figures are in fact 4-5 times lower than those originally given to Panorama. The University emphasised the human error was wholly on their part and has apologised unreservedly to the BBC. The programme has been temporarily removed from iPlayer and is being re-edited to reflect the correct figures.

It’s hardly surprising really. The information is in the public domain for any inquisitive journalist to find if they could be bothered to look. Snowdon expressed some doubts before it was even aired.

Forgive me if I sound jaded when I discuss these people’s crystal balls, but it was only six months ago that a 50p minimum price was predicted to save 2,000 lives a year across the entire population. The government-funded sock puppet website says that it will save exactly 1,000 lives, again across the entire population. Suddenly saving 5,000 lives only amongst pensioners seems to be upping the ante somewhat, no? (The BBC is running the same story, but incorporates the old trick of multiplying the figure over a decade, hence ‘Minimum alcohol price ‘would save 50,000 pensioners‘.)

This, while our respected (pfft) mainstream media didn’t even so much as raise a sceptical eyebrow.

In fact, it was much worse than that. Sheffield University’s self-aggrandising page is quite clear about how many lives are to be miraculously ‘saved’ by minimum pricing.

Various public health groups have recommended a minimum unit price of 50 pence. Our model suggests that, in England, this would [lead to]:

3,060 fewer deaths and 97,700 fewer hospital admissions over ten years.

It’s quite incredible that Panorama’s fact-checkers are so shoddy that they didn’t see that claiming 50,000 old people dying is quite laughable when their source has previously declared – experts as they are – only 3,060 in the entire population! And even that is more than debatable if you have read their rent-seeking reasoning (in fact, their latest report contains a different fantasy figure of 2,941).

OK, let’s take that as being a mistake. That they intended to claim 3,060 per year, not over ten years. It is still nowhere near the 50,000 ten year figure that Panorama, the Guardian, and others took as read. It would also be a second cock-up from Sheffield University if that were the case. That’s quite a large helping of incompetence right there, I’d argue (oh yeah, and did I mention their research was funded out of your taxes? But you kinda feared that, didn’t you?).

In fact, the BBC’s retraction came about not because of Andrew Marr’s lauded journalists, nor from anyone who follows them. It was, instead, a regular jewel-robbing reader of this blog and others in the same vein who refused to let them get away with such blatant inaccuracies and challenged them on it. Successfully.

OK, so journalists are poor, over-worked creatures these days yada yada, and it’s not their fault, we are constantly told. However, there is one profession which has no excuse whatsoever for being pathetically credulous fools.

The UK government is to back the Scottish government when its minimum alcohol pricing legislation is challenged in the courts.

Advocate General, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, has said UK ministers will not “sit on the sidelines”.

He is due to discuss the UK government’s position on minimum pricing at a legal conference in Edinburgh later this week.

Who do they trust for the information which underpins this newly-found confidence in tackling the EU?

Research by Sheffield University has indicated that setting the minimum price at 50p would lead to 60 fewer deaths, 1,600 fewer hospital admissions and 3,500 fewer crimes in its first year.


The same government who follow the EU line on every diktat laid down in front of them; the same government who willingly throw your freedoms away once Brussels barks an order; will jump up and down indignantly when told minimum pricing is wrong and should be abandoned.

Makes you feel so proud of your elected arseholes doesn’t it? The only way they can be cajoled into resisting the unelected EU is when it is to further interfere in your life and make your freedom of choice more expensive based on the say-so of – let’s face it – a University with the rigour and double-checking acumen of Mr Bean.

How safe do you feel that idiots like this are in charge of your defence, policing and the education of your kids?

I wonder where Marr’s indispensable and questioning journalists were when all this crap was pumped out on prime time BBC1? Perhaps they’d have done a better job if they were in their mother’s basement doing what others have done more effectively and for free.

Epilogue: Will the Guardian admit they have been misled and give the same prominence to an article rubbishing their previous one like the BBC have failed to do? Well, what do you think?

Lies and boots yet again.


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