Jacqui “Wimp-ass” Smith recently revealed a further segment of her not-so-secret agenda to turn the entire nation into wet-eyed clones of herself by clamping down on underage drinkers in the streets. Presumably her ultimate aim is to secure a society where she feels safe to go out at night because there are no other people in the world anywhere doing anything she doesn’t much like the look of.
As ever, with NuLabour, this is about aesthetics and prejudice, not about an assessment of the actual harm being done, and as ever, clamping down means giving the police extra powers to, er, do pretty much what they’re already empowered to do, that is arrest people engaging in anti-social behaviour and trace shops selling alcohol to underage drinkers but with more moral disapproval than before. They also get the power to take underage drinkers’ alcohol away from them. I’m sure they’ll just love that. Nothing the police like better than being asked to take on the role of parent-stroke-social worker.
This tendency to see public youth drunkenness as a problem in and of itself is dangerous. It has even hooked in the chair of London LDYS. It causes us to lose sight of the most basic liberal principle of all – who is harmed? I have nothing but scorn for the idea that young people drinking in public is innately any more dangerous, repellant or worthy of punishment than old people drinking in private – and that goes for underage drinkers as well (does anyone want to put their hand up to not having been an underage drinker?) If you stop underage drinkers from drinking, it has to be because you are convinced they are harming themselves and do not believe they are competent to decide to do so. I don’t care if you don’t like the appearance of it. I don’t care if you feel slightly threatened by it. Sorry, but I really don’t give a toss. Have the grace to admit that you’re afraid of Young People, Jacqui, Young People probably from the lower end of the social scale, and that’s all there is to it.
I have a jolly good mind to go and hang around outside the library swigging from a bottle of Merlot and shouting environmentally-aware abuse at 4×4 drivers (hell, it wouldn’t be the first time) and see what NuLabour does about it. For a start, do I still count as a young person? This will be the acid test.