16 April 2011

Thinking Paper # 3 - Should we encourage our Prime Minister to drink more?

By Ron Ford-Golightly


Alcohol is everywhere at the moment. It is in my blood, it’s in your blood, and it’s all over the dusty shelves of our country’s finest supermarkets. In the opinion of health experts, dutifully misreported by The newspapers (One dry Sherry before Sunday Lunch can increase middle class cancers by up to 95%), alcohol should be drunk in moderation, especially by those who drive cars or run our country.

In this paper the IIPBA will explore the issue in more detail, tackling the subject in the context of the performance of the Prime Minister. Should our leaders refrain to improve their political performance or indulge to speed up decision making? This paper will look at the history of alcoholism in our leaders and ask should we, the voting public, demand a minimum amount of alcohol intake for our Prime Minister?

Alcohol and Prime Ministers – A selective history

According to statistical research carried out by our in house polling experts, the IIPBA’s favourite drunk Prime Minister is Winston Churchill. Let’s look at his record:

(1) When Churchill was sent to the front line of the Boer war, he took with him 36 bottles of wine, 18 bottles of ten-year old scotch, and 6 bottles of vintage brandy (a drink he believed was essential to a stable diet);

(2) When King George V set a personal example to the troops by giving up alcohol, Churchill declared the whole idea absurd and announced he would not be giving up drink just because the King had;

(3) during the war he would take briefings from the armed forces chief of staff in bed or in the bath, usually with a bottle of champagne, brandy or whisky.

Looking at a longitudinal time series analysis of public polling, we can definitively say that the public love Churchill. He was a big fat drunk but also a successful wartime leader and eternally popular Prime Minister. Coincidence?

Of all the revelations in former Prime Minister Tony Blair's autobiography, his admission to habitually drinking wine and spirits each night was perhaps the most surprising. But did it matter? In terms of units drunk, he confessed, he was definitely at "the outer limit" of what would be regarded as healthy to drink in a week. If we leave out his rather hasty decision to condemn large amounts of people to a grizzly death, it’s fair to say that Blair was one of the most popular and successful Prime Minister’s of all time due, in large part, to his common touch and ability to make decisions after a few whiskeys.

Prime Minister Herbert "squiffy" Asquith, so called because of his penchant for certain toxins, used to sway on his feet when speaking or answering questions in the House of Commons. He even became the muse of a ditty writer during World War I (when "Mr Asquith says in a manner sweet and calm: Another little drink won't do us any harm"). However, Asquith was one of the longest continuously serving Prime Minister’s of the 20th century who has been noted by historians and social study’s alike to have been a successful peacetime Prime Minister.

William Pitt the Younger habitually drank several bottles of port a day, which is said to have been prescribed by his physician. Now this love of port didn’t go without its consequences. He died in 1806 at the age of 46, and from contemporary accounts it appears that he succumbed to renal failure and cirrhosis. However, Pitt was not only the youngest Prime Minister, but he also presided over what has been described as “one of the most completely successful ten years in the history of British government” (take that Gordon Brown).

Moving on to the cow headed, iron fisted, silent comedian, Gordon Brown was said to enjoy a bottle of Becks and a pizza with the “lads” (Ed Balls and Ed Miliband) during his opposition and treasury days. However, he also said that he woke up to Arctic Monkeys in the morning so I think we can safely discount both. According to Westminster rumours, he actually enjoyed Luke warm urine, hessian sacks and self flagellation. The rocking horse rumour is, to date, still unfounded. It may be too soon to determine what Brown’s legacy will be, but I think it is fair to say that the ten successful years of boom in the economy that he presided over was also one of the contributing factors which will make the next 10 years so miserable for so many. In summary, he didn’t drink as much as Tony and still went on to ruin the economy for a generation.

Prime Minister Dave – Recommendations

Dave has admitted to enjoying “a can of Guinness” sat in front of the TV watching darts (“There’s a good old boy, open me another Guinness wont you old chap”). Two things: one this has to be a lie and two why was he trying to win votes in the Republic of Ireland? Watching Dave drink a pint down his local pub on the TV during election night was like watching a young boy tasting his dad’s beer for the first time, trying ever so hard to like it but not being able to avoid screwing up his face in disgust (but daddy that’s yucky). The IIPBA can’t help but feel that a good Prime Minister needs to have a thirst for the old poison. From winning wars to presiding over decade long periods of good government, our finest leaders have always enjoyed a good old fashioned binge to help them along the way.

In summary, get with the programme Dave, the squeezed middle likes a man who can get through two bottles of red wine and still do his tax return of an evening. Don’t shout about your drinking from the rooftops (poor William Hague) just get down to a bit of hard edged spirit toasting whilst you pore over your red box. One, it generally makes reading easier and two decisions will come quicker because of the lift in confidence. Too far and too fast is more than acceptable when it comes to alcohol intake Prime Minister.

Thanks for listening.

^Picture copyright James Stringer, used under Creative Commons^

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