Davenport direct

16 May, 2008

WSTA's new alliance could provide a welcome platform for more people power

By launching his leadership with a "listening" tour of the land, it was somehow inevitable that Gordon Brown would fail to deliver on his grandiose promise to learn from what he heard.

As a consequence, one year on, he finds himself in a much more vulnerable position than he could have imagined.

A round of damning local elections, opinion polls showing renewed faith in the capabilities of the opposition and a backlash over his key policies - the electorate has found a way to communicate its disquiet, and the PM does seem to be paying attention this time.

Now they have regained their voice, the stage is set for more demonstrations of people power, and the trade could find itself one of the beneficiaries of this new political mood.

The Wine & Spirit Trade Association couldn't have picked a more opportune moment to launch its Responsible Drinkers Alliance - an online platform giving consumers free reign to comment on the national debate around alcohol.

For too long the only people to have had the government's ear on binge-drinking, taxation and education - to name but a few of the big political hot potatoes - have been in the health lobby.

Now, the public can have their say. Facebook and other social networking sites prove how influential the internet can be in galvanising views, mobilising forces faster than any other medium.

To be effective, responsibledrinkersalliance.co.uk needs to be credible, and if it succeeds in its aim of setting out the facts, rather than preaching about the woes of the industry, consumers will probably buy into it. That's why the WSTA insists the site's direction and content must be driven by the public.

Driving awareness of the site is very much a priority for the WSTA and the trade has a part to play here. If you think your friends and family would be interested in having a say, let them know about it.

It's also likely that many people in the trade feel their views aren't being sufficiently represented - this might provide the mouthpiece they've needed.

And while RDA might have been the brain child of the WSTA, there's also plenty of room for the on-trade to add their support - clearly pub customers are affected by many of the same political issues.

Brown pledged to involve and engage "the voices of people too often left unheard".

If that sounds like just about every customer who walks through your door, urge them to join the debate.

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