One depressing advert doing the rounds at the moment is Asda's promotion for Steinlager, which ends with Asda proudly announcing it is part of 'Challenge 25'.
Challenge 25 is a policy (now law in Scotland) which asserts that anyone who looks as if they are under 25 and attempting to buy alcohol should be challenged, and asked to provide proof of age. No proof - no beer. This nonsense comes to us courtesy of the United States, where a whole series of big stores have long abided by similar policies - often due to the distaste born-again Christian store owners held for alcohol. In 2001, at the aged of 32 and already stark staring bald, I was refused four cans in an Arizona supermarket on the grounds that I was under 40, and did not have proof of age. Whilst I had the pleasure of walking out and leaving a large amount of shopping on the conveyer belt, the petty unjustice of it still rankles.
The Challenge 25 orthodoxy ticks several boxes for those in authority. It means pretty much any young person on a night out is now required to carry identification with them. That is passport, photo driving licence or (no doubt) a specially created card made by the Challenge 25 industry - at considerable expense. Next, expect to see certain city centres shut off by police on Friday or Saturday nights this winter - with entrance only allowed to those who have had their ID checked. No ID - no city centre visit.
Bureaucrats will of course have a field day with all this nonsense - add up all the passports and driving licences lost by pissed up owners that will need to be replaced. Secondly all the staff expected to 'challenge 25' will need training - hence the training courses from as little as £295 from one retailer. With the pub and nightclub industry struggling in most cities, we can of course expect the costs of these changes to be passed on to one group of people only - the paying customer.
The next time politicians decide to make a push to reintroduce identity cards in Britain, we will be told that the ID cards will make life more convenient for us. How? Well, you will no longer have to take your passport or driving licence with you when you buy alcohol. Hackney South and Shoreditch MP Meg Hillier tried this nonsense when she was a Home Office Minister in 2009 - and no doubt others will follow. It is the oldest trick in the book - use one unpleasant and unneccesary law, to pave the way for another unpleasant and unneccesary law.
Unless I return to Arizona, I am very unlikely to be challenged to prove my age when buying beer. If you ever are, I really do encourage you to walk straight out and go to a pub, club or off licence where the owners and staff area little less petty. In resistance, we find life. In acceptance, we find only drudgery.