Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt has called on the government - of which she is a member - to raise taxes on alcohol to discourage binge drinking.
This is the same government - of which she is a member - who recently introduced 24 hr drinking. This may seem like something of a disjointed approach for a party who said they intended to introduce "joined up government" to Britain back in 1997. Why do something that encourages people to drink on the one hand and then impose higher taxes to, purportedly, discourage it?
To understand what is going on you have to remember one simple point.
Labour was, is, and always will be a tax and spend party.
The only thing of interest to them is finding ways to take more of our money so that they can spend it on things that matter to them. This is what they mean by "joined-up government". It has nothing to do with ensuring, for example, that the council don't resurface a road the week before the telephone company rip it up to lay new cable. It is all about mobilising the various departments to work together in raising tax revenue.
That is why Tessa Jowell said that the 24 hour licencing laws are necessary "to make it possible for the vast majority of people who drink but who never get into trouble to have more freedom as to when they drink". Which all sounds very plausible and reasonable, doesn't it?
Except of course that the vast majority of people who like a drink and don't get into trouble are unlikely to be in a pub, bar or nightclub at 2, 3, 4 in the morning. In fact, more and more of those who drink responsibly do so at home - simply because our town centres are not a place for decent people of an evening anymore. It would have been nice if she'd been more concerned in making it possible for the vast majority who never get into trouble to have more freedom as to where they drink rather than when. But that wouldn't raise any money so was always a non-starter.
The point of the 24 hour licencing law was to increase spending on alcohol and therefore raise more revenue from taxation. Now the second stage kicks in where the Health Secretary says she's concerned about the health risks of "binge drinking" and calls for increased taxation on alcohol. This paves the way to engage the Treasury and for the Chancellor to act without seeming like a money-grubbing spoilsport. "It's all in your interests" he'll tell us and the rest of the sorry Labour shower will nod their approvingly.
This is how joined-up government works in Newlabourland.