Liberal Democrats have long known about Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland’s efforts to protect the Great British Pub. Now, the Sun has caught on to his work and interests and, today, have dubbed him The Casked Crusader, illustrated in this fetching portrait. In this article, entitled Scandaleous, they quote him as saying:
The pubco model is a scam. No one has got to grips with it — it’s a corporate scandal as big as Libor or Enron but no one’s even probing it.
What I’m saying is, enough is enough
Greg seems quite taken with his new alter ego. Although I wonder why he assumed that his nemesis would be male. Women can be villains, too, you know.
@pma_snifter Thanks Snifter! I wonder what my nemesis is called & what outfit he wears…
— Greg Mulholland MP (@GregMulholland1) May 10, 2013
I think this is a job for our wonderful, creative readers. Over to you…
Greg expands more fully on the campaign for a fair deal for local pubs in an article for the Yorkshire Post, in which he highlights how two pubs in his constituency have been revived by private landlords after they were closed when tenants left.
Firstly, on the pressures pubcos put on tenants:
The sad reality is that the biggest reason for pub closures in the UK is down to the unfair terms imposed by the large leased pubcos.
The reality of the business model was exposed to me when, just a few years before its closure and sale, the previous licensees of the then Spite had enquired about buying the pub, hoping to take it on and run it themselves rather than having a lease. They had the pub independently valued and put the price to the pub company, which came back with a price which was three times the actual value of the pub. The tenants left not long afterwards, sick of being forced to buy beer at hugely inflated prices and without getting a fair rent to compensate.
The point is in the overvaluation. The giant leased pubcos overvalued their estates to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds and recklessly borrowed against this imaginary figure. When the property market collapsed, each of the two largest pubcos found themselves in eye watering debt of over £3bn each.
As ever, those at the top got very rich, yet as the debts piled up the only way to recoup this money was to extract more and more from the small businesses, the pub.
And the solution is:
The Fair Deal for Your Local campaign believes that the best way to ensure a fair deal for pubs – and to deliver the Government’s clear commitment – is to include in the statutory code an option for tied publicans to only pay a fair, independently assessed market rent to the pub owning company – a “market rent only”option.
This is a simple, cheap-to-administer and market-based solution that would simply give tied licensees a choice. Importantly, all family brewers would be excluded as the code would only apply to companies who own more than 500 pubs.
Liberal Democrat Conference go-ers will, off course, expect Greg to turn up to the Glee Club in costume, now. I hope he doesn’t let them down.
Update: Glee Club host Gareth Epps, himself a keen opponent of pubcos, suggested on Facebook that he and Greg should do a double act at the Glee Club singing The Man who waters the workers’ beer. In costume. With Gareth as the nemesis. What more incentive could you possibly want to get designing the name and costume? I have asked Greg on Twitter if he accepts this invitation, but, probably sensibly, he has yet to reply…
* Caron Lindsay is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings