Bradley Horsley is a student at King’s College, London.
“Free markets are great!” This is essentially the election slogan that many, if not most, Conservative activists would like to campaign under. Albeit in a more jazzed-up, election-winning format.
How to brand this message was a topic of a recent conversation in which I took part. In today’s world of social media-friendly memes and GIFs, it can often be hard to get across an argument. Rather, social media often causes an oversimplification of issues and instead aims for people’s hearts, not their heads. As we sat there discussing these issues, I realised that the answer was right under my nose. I should have noticed, too: its hoppy aroma was hard to miss. My pint of Truman’s Roller IPA, and Craft Beer in general, I thought, could provide the solution.
It is spreading across the country, out from smaller brewers into trendy East London haunts and even the local village pub. Unlike the big brand lagers, each brew is made in smaller quantities and aims to be different. Some are more bitter; others lighter; some are darker, others aim to be hoppier. Essentially, these beers offer more choice to the consumer.
The Conservative Party can’t directly claim responsibility for the birth of the craft beer revolution. The barley seeds had been sewn long before we entered government in 2010. Yet it was the product of one of our core beliefs: that lower taxes are better for society.
After 25 years of campaigning by the Society of Independent Brewers, Gordon Brown introduced a progressive beer duty in his 2002 budget. Breweries which produced less than 880,000 pints a year could see a discount of 50 per cent on their tax bill with a sliding scale of relief available for those who grew beyond this.
In a world of Jeremy Corbyn, and his easy, yet expensive and often ill thought-out solutions, talking in the abstract about the benefits of lower taxes often means having to fight off claims that lower taxes only benefit billionaires. So here is a great example for social media and on the doorstep. The economy benefited; low taxes meant more small businesses; the number of brewers in the UK has grown from 500 to 2,000, including the relaunch of Truman’s Brewery in East London. Consumers benefit, too – more choice and better beer.
The upcoming local elections may worry some. The media rhetoric seems to be that the bearded hipsters in Shoreditch and Islington may lock us out of London for a generation. But there is hope. There are messages we can put across. We just have to reassure people’s faith in capitalism with practical examples. Remind them that life in a socialist state could never produce the products we love or allow people to turn their passions into a career. While under the teetotal Corbyn, who knows if alcohol would be permitted at all.
If you’re still unsure about how conservative these craft brewers are, look to BrewDog – the UK’s largest, still independent craft brewery. Despite, or perhaps because of, all their punk and rebel branding they’re as Thatcherite as a company can be. Rather than floating directly on the stock exchange, the Punk IPA producers have sold shares to those who love their beers. Of this “Equity for Punks” scheme, Mrs Thatcher have would been proud: this is her share owning democracy in action. She may have had limited success in her endeavors, but the free market promises to continue her good work.