Westminster runs on alcohol. There’s a reason Marie Le Conte’s excellent book “Haven’t You Heard?”, a guide to gossip in SW1, has a whole chapter dedicated to the postcode’s drinking establishments. Whether it’s the Terrace or Sports and Social, the Red Lion or the Westminster Arms, the Spectator summer party or the seemingly-endless supply of room temperature white wine at party conferences, socialising is integral to the way our political system works and alcohol goes hand in hand with that.

For those who don’t drink it can be an alienating experience. I’d probably be classed as a social drinker but when it comes down to it, I only ever drink if I’m in a situation where it would be unusual not to; evening events, drinks receptions, private dinners. Situations where drinking is not only expected, but abstinence is so noticeable as to nearly always be remarked upon. In a normal workplace this wouldn’t be much of an issue but in Westminster – with working lunches, endless receptions, and numerous taxpayer-subsidised bars in Parliament – it’s at least a weekly occurrence.

It isn’t just Westminster, of course. Finance and the legal profession are also sectors where late nights are the norm and getting on in your career relies heavily on being seen and who you know, so it’s easy to feel the pressure to head to the pub. It’s not something that’s done after work; it is work.

Industries are beginning – finally – to wake up to the benefits of a diverse workforce, but a culture that relies on spending time at the bar is inevitably one which disadvantages particular groups. Women with caring responsibilities can understandably not be keen to spend their evenings hanging around in the pub, as will members of some religious faiths.

Even young people – for years branded the biggest binge drinkers – are turning away from alcohol, with the proportion of 16- to 24-year-olds who say they never drink alcohol rising from 18% in 2005 to 29% in 2015.

If the chances of advancing your career is dependent on connections made over boozy lunches these groups are faced with a difficult choice: drink or risk falling behind.

But lockdown has forced Westminster to look at new ways of working. Having a glass of wine in a business lunch is acceptable, but heading into a conference call sounding like you’ve necked a bottle of wine in your own home before mid-afternoon is less so. Zoom socialising on a Friday night has often included a beer or two if that’s your thing, but abstaining is easier if you’re in your own home and not being pressured to contribute to the next round at the bar. MPs can’t flock to the Terrace after a long day in the chamber if you’ve joined proceedings from their constituency office or spare bedroom.

And while coronavirus has forced us to re-eventuate our working habits, we should also take the opportunity to review our drinking ones. Not only would lessening the link between politicians and publicans mean a more inclusive workplace environment, we might also get some better laws out of it.