Call Time On Duty: Hard truth is wine just isn't great politics.

The Call Time On Duty Campaign didn't work. All those economic benefits, including jobs, were passed over in favour of some cute politics.

The alcohol duty escalator has been scrapped. Taken in isolation this is a good thing. It's what we campaigned for after all.

But duty has only been frozen on spirits, and increased at a slightly slower pace on wine: an extra 5p per bottle rather than the priced-in 10p.

It won't have escaped the Chancellor's mind that Scotland will be holding an independence referendum in September. The proudly homegrown Scottish whisky industry is worth £4.3 billion per year.* It supports 35,000 jobs UK wide.* That matters.

I spent three years working in Westminster, taking in three Budgets and three Autumn Statements. If they had a theme it's this: George Osborne is a political Chancellor. He likes laying traps, thumbing the political playbook. There's an economic foundation, but it's politics that makes Mr Osborne get out of bed in the morning.

The Call Time On Duty campaign was heaving under the weight of alleged economic and industrial benefits:

  • The wine and spirit industry is worth £20billion annually to the British economy
  • 650,000 people employed in the production and retailing of alcohol
  • 1.1 million UK jobs are supported in the wider economy
  • Wine and spirits account for 42% of the value of products sold in pubs, bars and restaurants and are worth around £9.8 billion to these establishments

It created a lot of good noise, counter-intuitively engaged the disconnected drinks industry (beer competes with wine after all), and got a lot of politicians on board.

But fundamentally, the Chancellor probably had this planned all along. Once again, wine didn't get a look in. There were a lot of votes in cutting beer duty last year. There are plenty of Tory and Lib Dem votes (ironically often at odds with each other) to chase in cider country next year. There's a referendum to thwart this year.

When's all said and done, wine's just not got enough votes in it.

*[figures from Scotch Whisky Association]

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