The fact that Saturday’s Facebook-advertised party on the Circle line to mark the Mayor’s new ban on drinking on London’s public transport got out of hand was achingly predictable; but that it should’ve been organised by a City go-getter, miffed that his pal lost her job when the previous incumbent, Ken Livingstone, lost his, is almost too good to be true. Yet there was Alexandre Graham, the 26-year-old RBS banker, popping a bottle of bubbly in a Tube carriage, while all around him tipsy high spirits condensed into pissed bad vibes.
In a way Graham and his actions sum up contemporary London far better than Boris Johnson could ever hope to: London’s anarchy, its irrationalism and its hedonism, but most especially its centuries-old tradition of street theatre, whereby the mob itself struts upon the stage of power. That the mob should also be drunk goes without saying.
I’m not making a case for unfettered public drinking being a good thing – I find crapulent teenagers and twentysomethings quite as noxious as any other sober grump – but in a week that sees an increasingly tired and emotional Government lashing out with still more legislation aimed at curbing the menace of drunken teens, you have to ask yourself: isn’t the law already a herd of asses when it comes to boozing? And hypocritical asses to boot, thrusting the bottle at the British with one hand, while trying to yank it away with the other.
The new legislation is aimed at criminalising under-18s who “persistently” drink in public, while also criminalising parents who let their under-12s drink at home. At the same time, the Government is to issue a guide to exactly how many units are suitable for younger drinkers. Naturally, the hedonists cry that all this betokens a ghastly nanny state. They’re dead right: they have abrogated the responsibility for teaching our kids how to drink in a socially acceptable way and the Government has taken it on.
My view is that the only way to avoid a nanny state is to have a parental one. The home and family-based social gatherings are where young people should learn how to drink alcohol responsibly; the wider society should only tacitly enforce – through general disapproval – what’s already deemed unacceptable. Of course there are going to be young people who “persistently” drink in public and indulge in antisocial behaviour, but my hunch is that they’re either nascent alcoholics or have other severe problems: further criminalisation is not the way to deal with them either.
Funny old Boris Johnson, who won the mayoralty on a “he knows how to have a good time” ticket, is now in danger of seeming like just the sort of numbing killjoy that New Labour has been brewing for a decade now. Frankly, I’ve never been troubled by people drinking on the Tube, but as for people scoffing fried chicken out of boxes – string ’em up, Boris.