Monday, 18 June 2012
Stalinism is alive and well in Barnet (Part 37)
In Barnet there are a small group of hardened nuisance drinkers, who regularly make local residents life miserable. There are a whole range of measures that the authorities could use to address these. The licensing act stipulates that anyone selling alcohol to someone where there is likely to be public disorder is likely to loose their license. I wonder if any branch of any major supermarket, discounting super strength lagers has ever lost its license for these reasons. There are a whole host of other rules and regulations which also already exist that could be used, if the authorities were minded to use them. They could issue ASBO's, they could invoke the laws on littering. They could use all manner of other means to move people on.
Unfortunately the plethora of laws already in existence isn't enough. Mr Mustard has written an excellent blog detailing how Barnet plan to ban public drinking across the Borough - http://lbbspending.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/lamb-to-slaughtered.html. When my mother was alive and in her 80's we'd occasionally take her for a picnic. This involved a nice glass of wine and a few sandwiches. She would now be prohibited from doing this, because some idiot has decided that she would be a "threat to public order". What about the street parties for the Queens Jubilee?
In my youth, a few of us would often gather at sunset, drink a few cans of lager and play guitar and other instruments at the Millfield in Mill Hill. As I was raised to clear up my mess, we'd always leave the site spotless. We'd not disturb anyone and often passers by of all ages would join us for a chat, sometimes our mums and dads, brothers and sisters, aunties and uncles would nip up. Sometimes we'd precede the beers and sing song with a kickabout. On one occasion, an Ethiopian student, working at the NIMR on the Ridgeway stood watching us play football. Eventually we asked him to join in. At the end of the game, we invited him to join our picnic and have a few beers. He'd been in the UK for three months and he said he was overwhelmed by our kindness and friendship. He regularly joined us for a kickabout after that. One of my friends bought him some football boots as he couldn't afford his own. We'd always take him along to the pub after for a beer. He explained his government only paid him £30 a week and nearly all of that went on food and lodgings. We all felt duty bound to show him the best side of the English people and drinking culture. When he went back to Ethiopia, he told us that he'd come to England believing that the English were standoffish and slightly racist. He told us he was going home with his eyes opened. In return, he gave me a fascination for Ethiopian culture and music. A fair exchange brought about by our time drinking and chatting.
Sure there are issues with some people and the way they drink, but this ban is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. A summer picnic is one of the finest joys of our beautiful city, our beautiful Borough and our beautiful parks. The ridiculous thing is that the ban won't work for the people it is intended for exactly the same reason the existing laws don't. No self respecting copper ever arrests anyone who is blind drunk unless they have committed a serious offence. All they do is throw up everywhere, drive everyone else in the cells and the station bonkers and generally be a pain in the arse. The next day they are invariably let out when they sober up anyway. What will happen is that the rest of us, the law abiding residents of Barnet will just have yet another pseudo Stalinist constraint put on our behaviour.
Just to put some context on this, I was on the tube recently coming back from a football match. Approx 30 fans of a northern team entered the carriage all drinking lager and singing raucous songs. Now as we all know Boris has banned this from the Underground, but did any of the attending Police lift a finger? Of course not. It was far easier just to let the relatively good humoured mob drin their cans and go home as quickly as possible. I have no doubt that if a little old lady had been seen swigging a bottle of gin the next day, a completely different response would have happened. Sadly I think we are developing into a society which is like a corporate playground bully. Petty laws are dreamed up for those who will put up with them. At the same time a whole different strata of soceity exists which laughs at them and completely does what it likes.
Until I hear some sensible plans for addressing that issue, I would really rather these jumped up local tyrants shut up and stopped interfering with how the rest of us live our law abiding and well behaved lives.