Are pubs being taxed too hard?

12 pubs are closing per week.

Figures from the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) found 300 independent pubs closed between September and March: that's 12 pubs a week, a big deal in rural areas where it can be quite a trek to the next nearest watering hole. It's the rural and suburban areas which have been hit particularly hard - a threat to the social life of these small communities.

Pubs have been hit with a double whammy recently - a double dip recession and an extra burden of a 42 per cent jump in beer tax since 2008.

There has been a resulting  6 per cent fall in beer sales in the first quarter of 2012, according to the BBPA, though the decline has become less steep this year than in the previous four. It's still a worrying trend, as more than a million jobs depend on the UK beer and pub sector. Pub closure is part of a long term trend: here's a chart showing pub decline between 2006 and 2010, from BBPA:

Pubs - a thing of the past? Photograph: Getty Images.
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Donald Trump's healthcare failure could be to his advantage

The appearance of weakness is less electorally damaging than actually removing healthcare from millions of people.

Good morning. Is it all over for Donald Trump? His approval ratings have cratered to below 40%. Now his attempt to dismantle Barack Obama's healthcare reforms have hit serious resistance from within the Republican Party, adding to the failures and retreats of his early days in office.

The problem for the GOP is that their opposition to Obamacare had more to do with the word "Obama" than the word "care". The previous President opted for a right-wing solution to the problem of the uninsured in a doomed attempt to secure bipartisan support for his healthcare reform. The politician with the biggest impact on the structures of the Affordable Care Act is Mitt Romney.

But now that the Republicans control all three branches of government they are left in a situation where they have no alternative to Obamacare that wouldn't either a) shred conservative orthodoxies on healthcare or b) create numerous and angry losers in their constituencies. The difficulties for Trump's proposal is that it does a bit of both.

Now the man who ran on his ability to cut a deal has been forced to make a take it or leave plea to Republicans in the House of Representatives: vote for this plan or say goodbye to any chance of repealing Obamacare.

But that's probably good news for Trump. The appearance of weakness and failure is less electorally damaging than actually succeeding in removing healthcare from millions of people, including people who voted for Trump.

Trump won his first term because his own negatives as a candidate weren't quite enough to drag him down on a night when he underperformed Republican candidates across the country. The historical trends all make it hard for a first-term incumbent to lose. So far, Trump's administration is largely being frustrated by the Republican establishment though he is succeeding in leveraging the Presidency for the benefit of his business empire.

But it may be that in the failure to get anything done he succeeds in once again riding Republican coattails to victory in 2020.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.