The plethora of 'live action' TV cop programmes showcasing Britain's young drunks as they fight, stumble and vomit their way through our town and city centres all tend to merge into one vast twenty-first century Gin Lane Live, with a voiceover by Baldrick, lit by Sodium street lights with a heavy bass soundtrack and hi-viz plods as a sort of Gilbertian chorus. Nottingham, Cardiff, Brighton or Soho have become almost indistinguishable.
I'm astonished that anyone should be the least surprised by this development. I'm even more astonished when the media or politicians wrongly ascribe it to too much licence given to young people or to longer opening hours available to licensed victuallers. No. The proximate cause of this tsunami of public drunkenness and disorder is Labour's ruthlessly centralist approach to Licensing.
Local government is little more than an agency of the State these days, and was therefore ideally placed to execute Labour's new Licensing regime, under which exactly the same rules were to be applied everywhere from Newcastle to Newquay, with a presumption in favour of granting each and every licence application. Labour's vision was for "A vibrant night-time economy to revitalise our town and city centres". Truly.
Before this disastrous attempt at engineering a social homogeneity across Britain, licences were granted by a local bench of magistrates advised by the police. They based their decisions on their opinion on the degree of drunkenness, noise, disturbance and disorder that would result, and largely applied their own, local, standards. Licensees had to be whiter than white. Each extension had to be applied for separately; not usually a worry for a country hotel hosting a dinner and dance, but a lottery for a town centre pub holding a wet T shirt contest. And rightly so.
I'm fairly certain that had Licensing decisions remained in the hands of an independent magistracy, the centres of Nottingham, Cardiff, Brighton and Norwich would not now be no-go areas after dark. It's really that simple.