Lauren Dobson-Hughes is a former political staffer in both Westminster and Ottawa. Some of the examples below may come from personal experience.
The British are renowned for a number of achievements – bad teeth, the Empire, Emma Thompson and of course, binge drinking.
We Brits have, in recent years, begun to discuss our reputation for falling out of pubs, sitting pantless in the gutter, starting fights with other legless inebriates and causing over 1.2 million hospital admissions each year.
Despite all this, teen drinking experiences are still a rite of passage. There is no shame quite like being collected by your parents, who thought you were playing monopoly at a friend’s house, to see you fall down the stairs, vomit in their car and be sent to bed with a bottle of water. Every teen has that story. The vodka you managed to get your grubby mitts on, which caused you to profess your undying love for Dave from the year above. The time you topped up the white wine with water and hoped nobody would notice. The time an ambulance was called because Jimmy drank too much port and accidentally set his trousers on fire.
Which brings me to the young woman who reportedly collapsed at the Prime Minister’s official residence, 24 Sussex, and was ferried away in an ambulance. She was, according to media reports, treated for alcohol poisoning. And then presumably released into the care of her very angry parents who have grounded her forever. She is likely grateful for this, as it means she doesn’t have to face the mocking at school that inevitably awaits her.
Frankly, my friend Mitch can do better. He once attended a fete at the Duke of Westminster’s vast country estate. For those who don’t move in these circles, the Duke is the eighth richest person in the UK, and is worth £7.8-billion at last count. Mitch, a working-class Manchester lad, drank himself silly (booze was free! He was a student!). Towards the end of the night, Mitch was found by a butler wandering the mansion’s halls, and put to bed in a guest room. Or at least he thought it was a butler. Turns out, the man who carefully undressed him and tucked the duvet cover gently around him was the Duke himself.
I myself have a tale to tell. My aunt was a Minister under both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown (she now sits in the House of Lords). She was also my local MP. One night, my teenage sister had a house party while our parents were away. One participant enthusiastically embraced the household wine collection. An hour or so later, this fellow found himself dancing in our street, being very merry and very naked. Rather than call the police, a kindly neighbor called the local newspapers with this tenuous link to a local dignitary. Cue “Minister in raucous house party shocker” headlines for a week.
So, young lady from 24 Sussex, I hope these stories provide you comfort. Mitch survived his humiliation and is now a very respectable teacher. My aunt managed to find the funny side (or at least she said she did), and now it’s an amusing tale at parties. Drinking yourself silly isn’t big and it isn’t clever. But it’s also not the end of the world. Most of us have done it. And some people twice your age, who should know better, still do.
It is worth noting that teen drinking is actually on the decline in the UK. National Health Service figures show while alcohol-related hospital admissions have doubled in ten years, teen drinking has dropped from 26 per cent to 18 per cent in those very same years. It’s not so much irresponsible teens getting bladdered and making fools of themselves. It’s those thirty-somethings who’ve found a babysitter and are out on the town. It’s the forty-somethings, on their second bottle of very expensive Rioja on a Tuesday night, that we need to worry about.
Perhaps it’s not our kids we need to concern-troll over alcohol consumption. Maybe it’s us adults.