Paul Stainton: 10 years of drinking all hours

Peterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire host -
Peterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire host -
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Tony Blair fantasised about a continental, cafe style society, where Bob from Werrington and Lynne from Bretton could meander, hand in hand, through the various bars and cafes on Bridge Street, Long Causeway and Cathedral Square until the early hours, taking in the ambience, enjoying the sights and sounds and pretending to be in Rome or perhaps more realistically Tenerife.

The move, ten years ago this week, to allow bars, clubs, pubs and supermarkets, in England and Wales, to open longer was supposed to transform our night time economy and at the same time allow greater freedom of choice and improve public order.

Whilst it’s true that the centre of Peterborough now has a much more continental feel, it has not become Paris overnight and there is no proof that the Labour Party deserves any credit for the makeover.

And whilst our city’s core may have become more cosmopolitan you don’t need to hail a rickshaw or a Tuk Tuk to discover that it is something of an oasis in a booze fuelled wasteland of empty cans, collapsed drunks and vomit.

Take a walk down Broadway (or Bookie Alley as I affectionately call it) on any Friday teatime and witness the legacy of Tony’s grand plan, staggering around outside Tesco, swigging on bottles of cut price cider.

Or have a wander down Lincoln Road late at night in search of Blair’s utopia drinking dream and marvel at the beauty of a thousand off licences and their discarded empties, throttling the life and soul out of Millfield – Crown to Town anyone?

Twenty years ago the police knew where people were and at what time they had to deal with the fallout from the demon drink.

People went to pubs like the Lion, Rumpoles or Joe’s Garage in the early evening, before going home at 11pm, or moving on to a nightclub (they were places that played music for those that are unaware) like Shanghai Sam’s, 5th Avenue or L’Aristos, until the early hours.

Almost overnight licensing reforms killed off those clubs, whilst countless pubs and bars went under too, as off licences sprung up everywhere, selling beer cheaper than they could actually buy it.

The policemen and women you speak to claim that the laws have created a culture of fear amongst their staff and as the cuts bite harder that feeling will surely only intensify. Over half of their work now involves tackling alcohol related crime.

Our hard working doctors, nurses and paramedics struggle to cope with abusive drunks that typically take six hours to treat and cost our beleaguered City Hospital millions of pounds a year. Shockingly, 96 per cent of ambulance staff in a recent poll claimed that they had experienced threats or abuse from inebriated patients.
 However a new study from the Institute of Economic Affairs says this is all bunkum and things have never been so good. In fact it claims that the greater availability of alcohol has actually created a decline in excessive drinking.

Tell that to those on the frontline of Tony Blair’s boozy Britain. Tell that to the people who have to face this intoxicated onslaught in Peterborough every weekend.

Perhaps I am wrong and they are right and Peterborough has changed for the better thanks to the liberalisation of the drinking laws.

Maybe Tony Blair was a visionary, ahead of his time, a man whose ideas have helped transform our city and give it a new era of social responsibility.

Maybe I have had one too many.