Thursday, 25 June 2009


I once engaged in online debate with an arrogant, self-serving beardy from CAMRA (yes, he did have a beard, seriously). Having mentioned that his smug defence of the smoking ban might come back to haunt his particular vice at some point in the future, he replied with words to the effect of "most of the public like a drink, so that will never happen".

That was in March. This is an article in the Times, in June. My, that was quick!

Leg-Iron (via Counting Cats) has fisked most of it, eloquently as usual, but seeing as this is my territory also, and despite a walk in the cool night air to calm down, there is still more to be said about this.

And it is very simple.

Target: Unacceptable drunken behaviour
Laws that applied pre-1997: Plenty
Ridiculous solution: Restrict the substance
Result: More law-abiding harmed than was the case with the original problem.

Let's talk Boris Johnson here. What a breath of fresh air he brought to the post of London Mayor. Except that his first move was to ban drinking on the tube. Why?

Travelling back from the O2 on Saturday, three very well-dressed and articulate guys boarded the train, each with a can in their grasp. They weren't remotely threatening, just on a night out. As one would expect, the Puddlecotes were happy with their presence, but - incredibly - just the sight of their beverages caused a noticeable bristling in our fellow travellers.

Were they drunk or abusive? Of course not. If they had been carrying cans of Pepsi Max instead, would the carriage have been so worried? No. Could their drinking beer have resulted in poor behaviour? Again, no. They were only there for two stops so unless the human digestive system has evolved dramatically, and they were suffering a rare intolerance to alcohol which turned them into violent animals in the space of 4 minutes, no-one was remotely in danger. And even if that were to happen, there are laws which would cover it.

If, however, a drunk chav with a record of violent assault boarded the train having disposed of his can outside, we would apparently, according to Boris, have been perfectly safe.

See the problem here? It's not drinking per se, but the behaviour of the individual. What's more, the substance itself has been elevated into the criminal by legislators who seem to have a slim grasp of human nature.

The Home Office acknowledged that there was a problem with the law, and pointed to revised guidelines issued to police and local authorities in December last year to try to curb over-zealous policing.

“The law is clear that these powers should only be used to address nuisance associated with drinking alcohol in a public place, not to disrupt peaceful activities such as family picnics or to challenge people consuming alcohol who are not causing a problem. We expect local police forces to use common sense in the application of these powers,” a Home Office spokesman said.

He said that the zones were never intended to cover entire boroughs.

Note that these 'revised guidelines' were issued in December. Six months ago. Have they acted to censure any of those misapplying the rules? Whaddya reckon?

As usual, it is the Soviet Republic of Brighton and Hove leading the way.

Police in Brighton and Hove appear to be the most energetic in the country. Their 45 community support officers are making 25 confiscations a week. The Manifesto Club was inundated with claims of over-zealous enforcement, such as two young women forced to pour away glasses of wine that they were drinking on the beach, and three men having cans of lager confiscated as they stood on the promenade. Researchers observed drinks being confiscated from people having a quiet drink while admiring the plants in the Pavilion Gardens.

Dan Travis was leaving an off-licence in Brighton at 7pm with two cans of Kronenberg in his hand when two community support officers asked him to stop.

“They asked me if I knew about alcohol restriction zones and I said I didn’t,” said Mr Travis, a tennis coach. “They said, ‘We have to stop people who we think are drinking, not just drunk’. I pointed out that the cans were not even open, and they said that didn’t matter because they thought I was going to drink them in a public place. They asked me to pour it down the drain.”

Well, at least that settles the argument about which is the most idiotic council in the country, then.

The inaction of the DoH to call such morons to account, the willingness of even a Tory loose cannon to fall in meekly behind the temperance agenda, and the sly increases in beer tax on the back of Alistair Darling's VAT decrease, must surely make even beardy CAMRA stooges sit up and wonder if they might be adversely affected by the new temperance movement. They may well be thinking about it as they shop for their latest cardigan, but while they remain blissfully ignorant of the same tactics being used in other areas, they are doomed to relive the experiences of gun club enthusiasts, hunters, and smokers, all of whom have seen the righteous tramp all over their personal freedoms without any recourse to common sense, and with spin and lies leading the debate over and above reality of life.

If you can make Brighton on Saturday, join the Manifesto Club and dare the fuckers at Brighton council to arrest you.

Brighton members of the Manifesto Club will hold a picnic to protest against the city council's regulation of drinking and social life, and to speak out for Brighton as a free and fun city.

Time: From 1pm on Saturday 27 June
Place: Brighton Beach, by Hove Lawns, between third and fourth avenues. Download a map.

See the Facebook Group

Oh, by the way, the Countryside Alliance and Freedom2Choose did warn you. Time to perk up and object, no?


banned said...

"“ I pointed out that the cans were not even open, and they said that didn’t matter because they thought I was going to drink them in a public place. They asked me to pour it down the drain.”

Did it not occur to this chap that what the PCSOs 'thought' he might do was of no consequence and have not Brightons booze retailers had something to say about it ? Are Tesco going to stop selling beer because they "think" someone might drink it in public ?

Mark Wadsworth said...

Exactly. Boris is a bansturbator from Hell, but it keeps getting worse.

Ian B said...

You know, there's a part of me- that nasty part that lurks in us all which, if not kept in check, ends up compelling one to become some kind of bansturbationist campaigner- that, because I effectively don't drink any more (not due to any moral purpose or choice, I just fell out of the habit and lost interest, pretty much) wants the whole nasty machinery of state to do to drinkers what it has done to smokers, just so I can say "I told you so" and gloat at the "marvellous now pubs are smokerfree" crowd of gurning buffoons as they miserable watch prohibition imposed.

Anonymous said...

Folk in this wonderful town should all use empty cans (that once held beer) and fill them with water and sit around all over the place drinking it. What would 'they' do then ? I reckon that a few court cases would ensure that this stupid 'law' of no public drinking comes to an end.
The food police WILL most certainly be next. No eating anything with salt/fat or sugar while there 'might' be 'chiiiiildren' about

BTS said...

If any c*** ever tries to pull this shit on me there will be a very fucking public disturbance..