Britain's Treasury Chief Banned From Pubs After Beer Tax Hike

An Internet campaign to ban Britain's treasury chief from the nation's pubs has struck a chord with the country's harried drinkers.

Earlier this month, treasury chief Alistair Darling raised taxes on cars and cigarettes, but it is his new alcohol duties — which raised the price of a pint of beer — that have gotten Britons' backs up.

So when a pub landlord in Darling's home town of Edinburgh barred the chancellor from his establishment, drinking holes across the country followed suit, posting pictures of the white-haired, bespectacled treasurer above the big red word "barred."

Bar manger Andrew Little at the Utopia pub, which kicked off the campaign, told The Associated Press the poster was put up "tongue-in-cheek," but the sentiment snowballed.

"It looks like we've touched a nerve," Little said.

Hundreds have joined Internet groups devoted to running Darling out of every pub in the country, and establishments from the Tap And Spile in the north England town of Lincoln to the Plough Inn in Finstock, near Oxford, said Darling would not allowed to partake of their booze.

The government has raised taxes on alcohol by 6 percent above the rate of inflation — which translates to an extra 4 pence (around 8 cents) for a pint of beer, 13 pence (around 26 cents) for a bottle of wine and 55 pence (around $1.10) a bottle for spirits such as whisky.

The duties are scheduled to rise by another 2 percent above inflation in each of the next four years.

Opposition Conservative leader David Cameron said the movement to bar Darling showed that Britons were angry at the government's tax hike.

"Everybody knows that taxes have just gone up," Cameron said Wednesday at the prime minister's weekly question session in parliament. "Every time you fill up the car, taxes have gone up; every time you buy a car, taxes have gone up; every time the family goes shopping, and so on. No wonder every pub in Britain is trying to ban the chancellor (Darling) from having a pint."

Joe McCrorry, who manages the Plough Inn, said the increased taxes would do nothing to control binge drinking and suggested they could force the closure of more pubs — institutions he said were "at the very heart of British society."

The treasury said it was taking the campaign in stride, explaining that Darling wanted to raise money to fight child poverty and help families and the aged.

"If this is the price he has to pay then so be it," a treasury spokesman said Thursday, speaking on customary condition of anonymity.

And at least one drinker seemed unfazed by the controversy.

"It is inevitable that the government increases taxes on drink and cigarettes each year," said 52-year-old Neil Wilson, who was nursing a pint of dark beer at an Edinburgh pub. "They tax us for the simple pleasures in life," he said.