On the booze tube
Time Out has one for the road at Saturday Night's Circle Line party
It’s 7.30pm, and Ryan Sampson is worried. ‘On my way here I got stuck on a tube full of punks punching up the carriage. It was like a horrible dystopian vision,’ he complains.
A few weeks ago, Sampson set up a Facebook group inviting his friends to party on the tube the night before Boris Johnson’s alcohol ban came into place on June 1. Membership soared to over 8,000. Now the party is in full swing and the concourse at Liverpool Street is filled with costumed revellers convinced we’re heading into a new era of prohibition. ‘We like to think we’re putting the “civil” into civil disobedience,’ explains coordinator Alice Moss.
After a half-hour wait, the crowd has swelled to around 300. When it’s announced that eastbound trains are temporarily suspended, everyone crams into the first westbound train. People stand on seats and hammer out a rhythm on the ceiling. A chant of ‘Boris is a wanker’ goes up.
‘This is one of the greatest experiences of my life!’ somebody yells. ‘And I never thought I’d say that about a tube journey!’ At stops, drinkers hop between carriages; beleaguered TfL employees stalk the platform. A few stations later, Circle Line maps are being torn down and worn as scarves, train doors are used to crush beer can and Ryan grabs one ne’er-do-well as he starts tagging the wall. Unfortunately he’s not quick enough to get to the person who scrawls ‘Boris sucks cock’ across the carriage.
Whatever their motivation for being here, the one thing that everyone seems to agree on is that Boris’s ban on tube drinking is little more than a crude attempt set out his stall as a public-school Giuliani. ‘In the past, his politics have been libertarian,’ accuses Alice. ‘To immediately go in with illiberal zero-tolerance policies is quite hypocritical.’
But isn’t there a good argument for zero tolerance? Last week, Merseyside Police announced a 38 per cent drop in violent crime and 23 per cent fall in robberies since introducing hardline policing in 2005. As we disembark at Moorgate, I approach one policeman to discuss zero tolerance, but his dog starts barking. ‘I’m not being funny, but don’t come near me or my dog will bite you,’ snarls the handler.
‘This whole ban is encouraging fear,’ says Ryan. ‘That produces more hatred and the kind of incidents that you’re trying to squash in the first place.’
One by one, stations are closed and trains taken out of service. After prolonged hammering on carriage ceilings, black dust is falling from the ventilation grills, leaving participants streaked with filth like extras from ‘Oliver Twist’.
Or it would be if ‘Oliver Twist’ featured numbers like ‘Boris won’t let us drink’, ‘If you all hate Boris clap your hands’ and, erm, ‘Boris is a sailor’. Even those who voted for BJ join in.
‘Look, I just voted for him because I hated Ken, all right? I didn’t know it would come to this,’ says someone in self-justification.
By 11.30pm, it’s all over. The Circle Line has shut down and there have been 17 arrests after a series of assaults. Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT and reliable bête noire of Boris, knows who to blame: ‘Johnson should apologise personally to all those who were assaulted thanks to a half-baked gimmick designed as a publicity stunt and without a moment’s thought for the people told to implement it.’
It’s hard to know whether the evening bolsters BoJo’s argument that public boozing encourages antisocial behaviour, or whether it’s evidence of what happens when you patronise your electorate. One thing’s for sure, though. It was one hell of a night.
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