Synthetic booze- mixed results
The Major is spluttering again. According to nanny, drinking more than one healthy glass of his Albanian claret a day makes him a hazard.
"Preposterous! My pa has lived on claret and brandy for his entire life- up country in Basutoland- only way to keep going. And look at him now- 98 for God's sake, and still chasing his nurses. Gah!"
I topped up his coffee with an after breakfast Creme de Menthe sharpener, and once his frothing had subsided, we tried to take a look at nanny's new report.
As you will recall, the Major lives on the front line. In Guildford. And according to the report, Guildford is the fourth worst hotspot for hazardous drinking in the entire country, with 25.5% of the adult population knocking back more than the recommended weekly maximum (specifically, consuming between 22 and 50 units per week for men, or 15-35 for women).
How can that be? Leafy, cobbled, responsible, obey the law and pay your own way Guildford doesn't look like the number four hazard for anything (obviously excluding Saturday night when gangs of drunken teens rampage though the streets whydon'ttheybringbackthestocks just like in all Britain's towns).
Apart from anything else, how on earth does nanny know how much we drink, given that neither I nor the Major, nor anyone I know would be likely to tell her anything?
The report turns out to have been produced by a tax-funded group of sociologists called the North West Observatory, based at Liverpool John Moores University.
Of course as soon as I relayed that to the Major, he suggested it was all part of that long-running Northern plot to even the score with the more successful South. "John Moores? That pools fella? That's not even a real university, is it? And as for a bunch of leftie Scousers criticising me for drinking! Talk about pots and kettles!"
Unfortunately, as is so often the case with these headline grabbing reports, the actual document isn't yet up on their website (it won't be until the media circus has moved on). However, the Telegraph helpfully links to the data sets underlying it (see here).
And perusing the stats for hazardous Guildford is very interesting.
To start with, most of this "data" doesn't actually exist at all. It's had to be "interpolated" from various other stats. Now, I don't know if you've had much experience of statistical interpolation, but let me assure you it is a black BLACK art. And you should certainly not presume the results are in any way reliable (cf the interpolated adjusted stats on global warming).
And in the case of Guildford, it turns out that for most of their stats, the place has much less of a problem with booze than the national averages. They have a total of 22 measures. And on nine of them Guildford comes out significantly better than the national average, including on all measures of alcohol related hospital admissions and all measures of alcohol related crime.
On a further twelve measures, the researchers were unable to calculate a figure or it was not significantly different to the national averages.
On only one measure out of 22 did Guildford come out worse. And way down in small type that's labelled "Hazardous drinking- synthetic estimate".
Get that? Synthetic estimate. It's been cobbled tigether from a load of other stats, which may or may not be reliable themselves.
What should we conclude?
First, this report is yet another product of the Doom Industry- manufactured by researchers whose future prosperity depends on manufacturing Doom Reports.
Second, it is yet another attempt by Big Government to make itself even bigger. Health Minister Dawn Primarola says "the Government asked for this information so local public health directors can target harmful drinkers earlier". Well, Dawn, love, how about you stop wasting public money finding new things to waste public money on, and cut down to one of your plague hospitals to do a spot of cleaning?
Third, it's transparently paving the way for further tax hikes to fill the looming black hole in the public finances (no coincidence that Primarola was long-time member of Bottler's Treasury team).
Fourth... gah, I really can't be bothered to go on. I think I'll join the Major in a mid-morning Creme de Menthe.