Thursday, 8 May 2008

Driven by the drink - thoughts on Boris Johnson's alcohol ban

I felt compelled to respond to my boyfriend’s blog post on Boris Johnson’s somewhat misguided ban on alcohol on public transport in London, not only because I have a slightly different view but because he’s worried that no-one reads his blog!

Actually, I don't think this ban is so much as a criminal offence, but probably more of a by-law. The Underground and buses publish 'conditions of carriage' which stipulate things like passengers not talking to drivers whilst the vehicle is in motion, not putting your feet on the seats, and giving up your seat to an older person etc. They also ask you to do things like not eat revoltingly smelly kebabs, and to turn the volume down on MP3 players for other passengers’ comfort.

Most people see these things as being quite reasonable and help retain an order of general acquiescence and a pleasant environment on public transport. A ban on alcohol effectively comes into the same category as the rules which stop people going through the grey gates at the end of platforms, or board a bendy bus with a pre-pay Oyster and not ‘touching in’ for example.In terms of being enforceable, a bus driver can refuse someone travel if they're being violent or abusive and in principle, they should have the right to ban someone with alcohol if they think it's going to cause a problem. So it's right that TfL staff should be empowered to prevent someone drinking on their vehicles if they think it's going to be a problem. The problem is that they won't have the confidence or the training to challenge a whole load of Arsenal/Fulham/Crystal Palace supporters (delete as appropriate!) who’ve just come from their game all tanked up and ready to cause trouble. If such a ban would work, it would be applied just as equally to the slightly squiffy young City couple on the train back to Epsom with a half-drunk bottle of Pinot Grigio in their hand...

Ultimately it's a bit harmless as a rule, and hardly criminalises the act of drinking – and as it will be so difficult to police (given British Transport Police’s other, more pressing priorities) it's hardly worth worrying about. Those people so utterly devoted to their right to carry on drinking whilst between the pub or restaurant and home might feel aggrieved that their liberty is being somewhat encroached upon. But for people who feel that buses and tubes are a 'neutral', safe, space where we just go from A to B without feeling the need to get sloshed in between, there's no harm in this ‘law’ from Boris saying “we’d rather you waited until you got to the other end!”

If anything, it just proves that Boris' policies aren't really that serious and don't get to the root of the problem - namely a culture which encourages excessive binge drinking! That one will take literally generations to sort out. Personally, I'm more concerned that Boris won't be giving any money to the Pride celebrations in London this year, or respecting the importance of London's diverse communities which Ken Livingstone used to.

So, right now I’m just going to set up a Facebook event to organise a massive piss-up on the Circle Line on 31 May! Hic

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