Newcastle: The Nanny State
We're constantly hearing about the epidemic of violent drunken behaviour of today's youth. No one could deny that the problem was especially bad in Newcastle. So the authortities have taken drastic action - and the cure is worse than the disease.
There's been demands for a curfew for years - I had my first letter to the Newcastle Herald arguing against the idea printed in 2002. But in recent years, more retirees are moving in to the city and the violence has worsened. Something Had To Be Done. so the authorities have gone for the most drastic course of action, and subsequently destroyed a whole drinking culture.
The culture was this: in Newcastle, because there are a great many drinking establishments close together, people tended not to stay in one place all night, but rather move between several venues through the night. Of course, having drunk people on the streets can cause problems, but 90% of the people out never caused any trouble.
Anyway, all that is over now. The new rules: no drinks with greater than 5% alcohol content can be sold after 10p.m. You can't get into any venues after 1a.m., and closing time is 3a.m. No exceptions.
And it's killed nights out as I knew them. Over the weekend, I returned to the fetid swamp that spawned me for a visit, and was keen to recapture the memories of good nights of the past. We passed many venues you'd normally expect to be packed on a Saturday night, people merrily spilling onto the footpath, and they were all either shut altogether or half-empty. The streets were deserted apart from a few lost, hopeless and out-of-town souls like myself who didn't know what was going on.
Lots and lots of people have lost their jobs, and Newcastle has deteriorated even further since I was last there - even the few businesses sustained by the late night crowd have shut up shop. Oh, and the curfew doesn't work. Still, at least the retirees who've moved into the luxury apartments in the city can have a good night's sleep, and that is the most important thing.
In the "You people make me sick" category: today's front page of the Daily Terrorgraph is a blaring sensationalist headline about corrupt cops still serving in the force.
A story in the public interest normally, yes. But today is Police Rememberance day. Couldn't they have exercised a little restraint for one day only?