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Curious, is it not, how a change of government here in the UK has led to a sudden injection of morality into the issue of irresponsible alcohol consumption in this country?

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No sooner had the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition announced this week that it intends to ban the sale of alcohol below cost price in the UK, than multiple retail giant, and market leader, Tesco came out in support of the proposal today (21 May).

The cutthroat battle between Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda and Morrisons for the pound in the UK consumer's pocket has resulted in the use of alcohol as a loss-leader to drive footfall. Media pressure on authorities to do something about the (dare I say it, slightly exaggerated?) culture of binge drinking has been relentless in the last few years, and yet the multiples have continued to use alcohol prices as rocks to hurl at each other.

While the move will be widely welcomed by the media as a step in the right direction away from binge drinking, the alcoholic drinks industry in the UK will be applauding for different reasons. The on-trade will welcome a levelling of the playing field – pubs and bars can't muck about with price promotions by law, why can supermarkets? Drinks producers will also be upbeat – hefty duty increases have hammered their margins, as multiples force them to absorb the rises so consumers keep coming through the door.

What will be of particular interest, meanwhile, will be the reaction of the Great British public. Now that they're set to have their (perceived) moral outrage sated, how are they going to feel about having to, literally, pay for that warm glow?

And, what of the timing of all this, less than a month before the FIFA World Cup? Four weeks of World-class football, hours of which will appear on UK television at alcohol consumption-friendly times of the day, in the heat of the UK summer.

How's that for a test of moral resolve?


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