Strange days these, when the thieving Tory bastards appear unable to persuade people to vote them a majority in a recession. Previously they had experience and guile. They knew how to make stuff tick. They had the advantage of corporate experience. The levers of capitalistic power were well marked by their grubby fingerprints. This time around its a different state of affairs. Cameron’s crew are basically a bunch of losers.
They lost the general election. Luckily their sister party, the Liberal Democrats, came to the rescue. They lost the confidence of the public by tearing up manifesto promises and attacking the NHS. Now I’ve read that Grant Shapps, the Minister of State for Housing and also the Minister of State for Local Government has decided to encourage self-building of homes and simultaneously relinquish planning controls. The Planning Rules Blog points out that this will allow Bin Laden style compounds to spring up wherever self-builders want them to. It describes Bin Laden’s last known place of residence as “a classic bit of self-build, bearing no relationship to its neighbours and with no architectural merit”. Has Mr Shapps lost the plot completely?
The obvious answer is to reverse what the thieving Tory bastards banned in the Thatcher years: they prevented local authorities from building more council houses. Combined with the great council house sell off, this had a drastic effect on the housing market, which we have suffered from ever since. If the supply of council houses can be increased, it takes pressure off the bottom end of the mortgage market because some of the demand is siphoned away. Houses become less expensive. This would, in time, solve the housing crisis, whereas ruining the look and feel of a place simply creates another problem.
I was teetotal until I was 26. Considering that I come from Brighton, with all those temptations on my doorstep, this is remarkable. I was strong willed. I got through all the early years of peer pressure without tasting a drop of the world’s favourite poison. The teenage years, university, my early twenties.
Gray's Inn Hall
I first drank in Gray’s Inn, of which I am a member. I was obliged, in order to qualify as a barrister, to eat a certain number of dinners in Gray’s Inn. The whole business was archaic in the extreme, deeply sexist and, quite frankly, offensive. I had to dine 18 times there in a single year in order to be called to the Bar in time for the rest of my legal education. The food was terrible but the alcohol was reasonably good. Whether this is true or not I do not know but at the time I was told that the Inn was exempt on tax on alcohol forever by decree of Queen Elizabeth 1st in gratitude for services rendered in a war against Spain! One evening, raging inside against the pomposity of the institution I was inside, I realised that to stay on course I needed something that would allow me to tolerate the whole charade. I poured a glass from the bottle of port in front of me…
Unfortunately, the rest of my legal education seemed to involve a heavy drinking culture and I got a taste for it. 16 years later, I regard myself as having a drink problem: once I’ve started a beer, I get carried away and cannot stop myself from becoming the most captivating person at the party. Parties need entertaining and most people can’t manage it, so I’m a popular fellow in these situations, with my articulate wit, my edgy nature (I’m not called Scrapper for nothing) and my drop-dead gorgeous good looks. No-one else regards me as having a drink problem. I don’t drink every day. I never drink alone. I don’t display any of the other signs we associate with people who have a drink problem. However, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t drink. Everyone seems to regard only those very badly addicted to alcohol as having a drink problem. In fact, our entire society has a drink problem.
After the recent elections, I have been involved in a fair amount of celebration. It was well deserved. Getting the Greens elected in Brighton & Hove was no accident. It was the result of a lot of hard work by a large number of people. My contribution was modest compared to very many people I could name here. After months of grafting away with our electorate, we made history. It was a heady and emotionally laden moment. After so much work, I was exhausted but did not want to miss out on the fun. The situation was the exact opposite of that evening in Gray’s Inn, yet by this time I was seemingly unable to just be happy without the evil drink. Over the last week I’ve been dwelling much on this comparison.
Last night I met up with Leo Littman and some of his campaign team. It was a gentle evening and I didn’t get drunk – I don’t think any of us were – but once again I did drink. It was good to catch with everyone again and I was pleased that I went along. The trouble is that three pints of beer and a couple of glasses of Pimms ought to have a neurological effect on me. My tolerance for alcohol is simply too high for that amount of poison to affect me. On the long walk home I mused much about the course my health had taken since that night in Gray’s Inn. I photographed the vandalised sign for Balfour Road to remind myself about these darker processes. Once again this morning I have awoken feeling a bit rough, a bit rubbish and generally squalid. I’ve had enough of feeling like this after pretty much every social occasion, so this morning I’m declaring publicly my abandonment of alcohol forever. You’ll have to divert yourselves at parties from now on!