Writing at Reason online, Brendan O’Neil criticizes what he sees as new London mayor Boris Johnson’s authoritarian tendencies. Johnson has banned drinking on London’s subways and buses and wants to take away juvenile offenders’ travel passes. “Like a Stalinist thug, he’ll deny internal freedom of movement within London to any youngster who fails to behave in a Boris-approved fashion,” O’Neil says. He finds this behavior ill becoming in a man who once denounced Blairite commissar Polly Toynbee as “the high priestess of our paranoid, mollycoddled, risk-averse, airbagged, booster-seated culture of political correctness and health’n’safety fascism.”
What may be most surprising to an American is that you can drink at all on London’s public transportation system. Here in the People’s Republic of Washington, D.C., you can’t eat or drink anything, much less alcohol. Ostensibly this regulation is to fight off vermin — rats and roaches, that is — but there never seems to be any shortage of rats in the D.C. subways anyway.
As far-out as the idea of boozing up on the Metro might seem to us long-housebroken Americans, O’Neil cites numbers that back up his claim that alcohol consumption in the public transportation system doesn’t pose any real threat. “Last year there were a whopping 1.6 billion passenger trips on the London Underground, and only 1,806 reported assaults. That is one assault for every 449,690 commuters, which makes London’s tube system safer than Perth railways in sunny Australia.” It may well be safer than the D.C. Metro system, too.
There’s no public clamor for cracking down on bus and subway drinking, and there’s no spike in crime to serve as a pretext for other security-state (security-city?) measures Johnson is taking. The liberties he’s attacking are not ones to which Americans are accustomed, but O’Neil is right — Czar Boris is behaving like the busybodies he once denounced. Like many an American Republican, “in power, Boris has ditched the anti-authority posturing in favour of pushing through his own authoritarian agenda.”