Sir Keir Starmer Prime Minister UK politics booze

As the Labour Party’s Sir Keir Starmer takes up the office of Prime Minister for the UK, following the July 2024 elections, everyone involved in the drinks industry is hoping that more support will be given to business. However, it also makes you wonder what is the favourite tipple of politicians…

Tony Blair drinking
Tony Blair

“What do Tony Blair, Richard Nixon, William Pitt the Younger, Joseph Stalin, Nigel Farage and most voters have in common? Booze.”

Ben Wright has been the BBC’s political correspondent since 2008 and has written a fascinating book about the relationship of alcohol and the political class entitled ‘Order, Order!: The Rise and Fall of Political Drinking’.

According to this book, for most of his life Winston Churchill survived on a drip feed of alcohol, supping steadily throughout the day and late into the night. If Churchill had to lead Britain today in a fight for survival, would his drinking be tolerated by a more intrusive and censorious press? Probably not is Ben’s conclusion and this is just one of the famous political icons that this book looks at in their relationship with alcohol.

“I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me”. Winston Churchill

Another insight comes courtesy of Nigel Farage, a more recent political figure associated with alcohol. Despite that, this book reveals that he has firm rules about drinking. “First, he says, he never drinks in the office. Second, he will not do a broadcast interview if he’s drunk more than five pints of beer.”

Nigel Farage drinking a pint
Nigel Farage

“A team of American investigators concluded recently that, without the underpinning provided by alcohol and the relaxation it affords, Western civilisation would have collapsed irretrievably at about the time of the First World War. Not only is drink here to stay, the moral seems to be that when it goes, we go too”. Kingsley Amis

This is how the book is described on Amazon:

“Britain’s first Prime Minister, Robert Walpole, smuggled wine up the Thames with the help of the Navy. Tony Blair confessed that a stiff drink and half a bottle of wine a night had become a helpful crutch while in office. Joseph Stalin flushed out traitors with vodka. The disintegration of Richard Nixon and Boris Yeltsin was largely down to drink.”

“Winston Churchill was famous for his drinking, often taking a whisky and soda first thing in the morning and champagne ritually with dinner. But why did these politicians drink and what was their tipple of choice? How did drinking shape the decisions they made? Ben Wright, political correspondent for the BBC, explores the history of alcohol within politics, from the debauched drinking practices of eighteenth-century ministers to today, often based on his own experiences supping with politicians in Westminster bars. With exclusive interviews and in-depth research, Order, Order! uses alcohol as a lens through which to meet a remarkable cast of politicians, to understand their times and discover what drove them to drink. A story of boozy bon viveurs – but with many casualties too – and the complexity of the human condition and the pull of the bottle.”

“Politics just floated along on a sea of claret for about two centuries,” Ben Wright

The Drinks Business magazine has reported on the alcoholic preferences of British Prime Ministers – in summary:

  • Robert Walpole (1721-1742) – Madeira Wine
  • William Pitt The Younger (1783-1801 & 1804-1806) – Port
  • Benjamin Disraeli (1868-1868 & 1874-1880) – Brandy with water
  • Herbert Asquith (1908-1916) – Fine Wine
  • Winston Churchill (1940-1945 & 1951-1955) – Pol Roger Champagne and Johnnie Walker whisky
  • Clement Attlee (1945-1951) – Beer
  • Harold Wilson (1964-1970 & 1974-1976) – Ale
  • Edward Heath (1970-1974) – Port
  • Margaret Thatcher (1979-1990) – Scotch whisky
  • Tony Blair (1997-2007) – Wine
  • David Cameron (2010-2016) – Beer and Cider
  • Theresa May (2016-2019) – Penderyn Welsh whisky
  • Boris Johnson (2019-2022) – Italian Red Wine and Lager

As for Sir Keir Starmer, the BBC has reported that his biographer, Tom Baldwin, noted that his favourite drink as a student was a mix of beer and cider.

Sir Keir Starmer drinking beer
Sir Keir Starmer

Although drinking has not disappeared from public life, political drinking is waning in comparison to the past (with a few exceptions by some known individuals and the party conference season) as reported back in 2018 by The Economist.

And what about the general British public? More in Common has conducted some research on the British public’s preference depending on their political party allegiance with some interesting and perhaps, unexpected results below.

UK voting preference by alcoholic drink preference politics booze

For the Conservative supporters, the most popular choice was Sherry with 49 points (also its biggest lead over Labour supporters) whilst for Labour, the alcopop VK with 51 points was first choice.

For Lib Dems supporters, Sherry was the preferred drink with 19 points, whilst Reform supporters preferred Shandy (beer with soda) with 23 points. In Scotland, SNP supporters leaned towards Shandy also (7 points) with The Green Party supporters preferring Pimm’s with 8 points.

As for the Royal Family and especially King Charles III and Queen Camila, their preferences are reflected on the drinks brands receiving a Royal Warrant – you can view these by clicking on ‘Drinks Brands and Retailers worthy of a Royal Warrant‘.

The (then) HRH The Prince Charles celebrating Laphroiag distillery’s 200th anniversary back in 2015
King Charles III and Queen Camila
King Charles III and Queen Camila enjoying a dram of Scotch whisky

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.