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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Douglas Carswell leaves Ukip to become independent MP

The Clacton MP quits his party but insists he will not rejoin the Conservatives or trigger a by-election. 

Douglas Carswell has long been a Ukip MP in name only. Now he isn't even that. Ukip's sole MP, who defected from the Conservatives in 2014, has announced that he is leaving the party.

Carswell's announcement comes as no great surprise. He has long endured a comically antagonistic relationship with Nigel Farage, who last month demanded his expulsion for the sin of failing to aid his knighthood bid. The Clacton MP's ambition to transform Ukip into a libertarian force, rather than a reactionary one, predictably failed. With the party now often polling in single figures, below the Liberal Democrats, the MP has left a sinking ship (taking £217,000 of opposition funding or "short money" with him). As Carswell acknowledges in his statement, Brexit has deprieved Ukip of its raison d'être.

He writes: "Ukip might not have managed to win many seats in Parliament, but in a way we are the most successful political party in Britain ever. We have achieved what we were established to do – and in doing so we have changed the course of our country's history for the better. Make no mistake; we would not be leaving the EU if it was not for Ukip – and for those remarkable people who founded, supported and sustained our party over that period.

"Our party has prevailed thanks to the heroic efforts of Ukip party members and supporters. You ensured we got a referendum. With your street stalls and leafleting, you helped Vote Leave win the referendum. You should all be given medals for what you helped make happen – and face the future with optimism.

"Like many of you, I switched to Ukip because I desperately wanted us to leave the EU. Now we can be certain that that is going to happen, I have decided that I will be leaving Ukip."

Though Ukip could yet recover if Theresa May disappoints anti-immigration voters, that's not a path that the pro-migration Carswell would wish to pursue. He insists that he has no intention of returning to the Conservatives (and will not trigger a new by-election). "I will simply be the Member of Parliament for Clacton, sitting as an independent."

Carswell's erstwhile Conservative colleagues will no doubt delight in reminding him that he was warned.  

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.