ENGLAND: Bishop says middle classes, some clergy, are binge drinkers

June 15, 2009

A Church of England bishop has launched a stinging attack on some members of the middle classes for consuming excessive amounts of alcohol in their comfortable homes and setting a bad example to working class youths roaming the streets of Britain.

The Rev. John Gladwin, the Anglican bishop of Chelmsford, east of London, who has been outspoken in the past on binge drinking, made his comments after a government report showed that one in four adults in England are now classified as "hazardous" drinkers.

The bishop said that people from the middle classes have got into the habit of consuming high levels of alcohol without thinking through the implications for the community as a whole.

"Growing prosperity is behind the rise in alcoholism," the bishop said in an article published in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper. "We now go out and buy our wine for the weekend."

The bishop said that it was unfair to draw attention to young and poorer people getting drunk in public, when more affluent people are also consuming too much alcohol, but in the privacy of their own homes.

"Often poorer people in society haven't got the protection -- the safety of jobs and homes -- so when young people do go out clubbing, it's all very public, whereas for older people, you can collapse at home at the weekend and have levels of alcohol consumption that are just as bad," said the bishop.

He noted, "They [the middle classes] can't turn around and complain about another generation who, with cheap alcohol and easy access to it, are doing the same but more publicly."

The bishop's attack on middle class "binge" drinking follows the publication of the National Health Service report in May. It said that the cost of alcohol-related harm to heavy drinkers -- mainly liver disease and depression -- in England amounts to 2.7 billion British pounds a year (US$4.44 billion).

Gladwin, who sits in the House of Lords, the upper chamber in the British parliament, and is chairperson of Christian Aid, a development agency, acknowledged that some members of the clergy are also drinking to excess.

He said, "Clergy have gone beyond the limit and got themselves into higher levels of alcohol dependency."

Related Topics: