Holding, as I do, the Church of England to be a contemptible little church and being instinctively anti-clerical, it is very rare indeed that I find the observations of Rowan Williams anything other than risible. One of Rory Bremner’s very best characters is his lisping, dotty Cantaur whom he has to perfection. But William’s attack on 24 hour drinking is no more than sound common sense.

Quite why people need to be able to drink in licensed premises at four o’clock in the morning midweek is utterly beyond me. If they have enough money so to do, it implies they are in full-time employment. Thus one is driven to wonder what the quality of their work is five hours later when they are in front of a computer doing something which affects people’s lives whilst trying to work out why there are two monitors.

Nor can one quite believe the breath-taking stupidity of ministers who foisted a 24 hour ‘chucking out time’ on the Police. Once upon a time all the Rozzers had to do was police a city centre for the drunks from about ten-thirty to midnight at the latest, after which the only people out and about were Burglar Bill and insomniacs.

Now some police forces are having to wage something akin to a war of attrition from six in the evening to six in the morning as this or that hostelry or night club pours its customers out onto the pavement where they then set about trying to donder someone they do not like the look of.

Williams is “very concerned” by reports that a review ordered into 24-hour drinking by Gordon Brown last year would conclude that the legislation had been largely a success. He is right to be so. Quite how the government can think that a culture of 24/7 drunkeness is a success is a tribute both to their stupidity and their willingness to spin anything no matter how bonkers into something that is a success.

The British public as a whole are highly unlikely to agree. They have effectively been excluded from most town centres after nine p.m. for fear of encountering a drunken mob and know only too well that the police are effectively being overwhelmed. For Labour to judge 24 hour drinking a success is frankly an open-goal moment for the Tories.

I would go back to a situation where all licensed premises close at the latest at midnight midweek and one o’clock on Fridays and Saturdays. Drunks of whatever age and sex should be put before the courts and given a short custodial sentence that would put their jobs at risk. If public drunkenness had consequences for the drunks for a change instead of for the rest of us, we might make some progress.

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