But not all the news is grim—and it is not just their owners that are casting around for ways to keep Britain’s pubs open. Just as pubs are diversifying, officialdom is beginning to view them more benignly: as linchpins of their neighbourhoods, which help to foster vague but politically fashionable goods such as community spirit and social cohesion. The Labour government, universally hated by publicans, appointed a “minister for pubs” a few months before it lost the general election in May. The Conservatives’ manifesto gave pubs the status of “essential services”, alongside facilities such as post offices, and promised powers for people to club together to buy boozers threatened with closure. More recently, as part of its drive to cut public spending, the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition floated the idea of merging pubs with public libraries.Pubs and libraries! Just the kind of bold, innovative thinking one expects from a non-traditional coalition like the tories and the lib dems. Among the many possible benefits: watching the normally shy librarians cut loose after a few pints and a few chapters of Jane Austen. But does this mean privatizing the libraries or socializing the pubs?
Hat tip: Charlie Brown