Monday, 19 May 2008

Bossy Boris

Many readers of this ramshackle blog have indicated to me enormous support for Boris Johnson's success in the London mayoralty elections, looking forward to a new era without Red Ken.  Said Liberty Scott of the loopy Tory toff for example, "I have no idea what Boris would bring, other than a healthy dose of skepticism about Nanny State..."

Well, no.  Looks like a predictably unhealthy dose of Tory backsliding and New Puritanism.  Brendan O'Neill reports at Sp!ked that "the very first act of London’s new Conservative mayor, Boris Johnson, has been to declare a ban on drinking alcohol anywhere on the public transport system."

As I said before, Johnson's election signals a London without Red Ken, but not a London in which any of Red Ken's policies are repealed (that's the way conservatives roll, you know -- just watch NZ come November).

O'Neill makes the point clear:

You can tell a lot about a political leader by his attitude to alcohol. Historically, your position on the Booze Issue – including the freedom of people to buy it, to consume it, and even to vomit it up again in a hedge if necessary – defined where you stood on individual liberty itself, and on the trustworthiness of the mass of the population to make choices and to live with their consequences.

Where illiberal, elitist, suspicious and quite often Christian outfits sought to restrict people’s access to alcohol, great defenders of freedom and civil liberties groups emerged from the struggle against prohibition. John Stuart Mill’s impassioned defence of freedom, On Liberty, was written ‘in the midst of the growing power of Christian temperance groups’ (1); the American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920, also the year in which the American government prohibited the manufacture, transportation and sale of all alcoholic beverages (2).

[This ban] reveals more about [Boris'] new regime than he thinks. Boris ... wants his booze ban to demonstrate that he will be tough on anti-social behaviour and singular in his determination to restore respect, good manners and possibly cap-doffing to the streets of London. In fact, the ban reveals that, post-Ken, petty authoritarianism and distrust of the London masses is still rife in City Hall.

Over to you, Boris backers.


  1. Elijah Lineberry19 May 2008, 09:25:00

    Oh Peter, gosh...give the fellow a chance, it has only been two weeks! ha ha

  2. As I pointed out on Iain Dale's blog, there's nothing illiberal about banning delinquent behaviour on your own property, only banning it on others'.

    Were the Tube and busses run by a private company, I doubt very much that alcohol consumption would be allowed on them. Since they are publicly owned, and Londoners' elected representative campaigned on this policy, the owners are well within their rights.

  3. Who are the owners? None other but those very same vomiting, drunks!


  4. Actually the buses are privately owned, but all of the revenue goes to TfL before the bus companies get any. The tube is publicly owned though, and it is up to London Underground to set the rules.

    However Boris Johnson has no powers to privatise the tube, or to abolish bus franchising. I've not noticed consuming food and drink ever being allowed on privatised buses elsewhere in the country, so it's hardly a measure.


1. Commenters are welcome and invited.
2. All comments are moderated. Off-topic grandstanding, spam, and gibberish will be ignored. Tu quoque will be moderated.
3. Read the post before you comment. Challenge facts, but don't simply ignore them.
4. Use a name. If it's important enough to say, it's important enough to put a name to.
5. Above all: Act with honour. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.