Dom Joly: Parliamentary immunity is handy on trains

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The Independent Online

Listening to Sir Nicholas Winterton on Five Live, as he described his fear of the sort of people that sat in "standard class", was a peculiarly enjoyable experience. There can be nothing more satisfying than hearing a politician making an arse of himself in public. Stephen Nolan knew that he was on to a winner, and rightly milked it for all he could. "Whinerton" is not standing at the next election, and so was freed of the usual shackles that increasingly bind MPs. He was only saying what all MPs really think – they loathe the general populace, the smelly, tattooed masses who hold their careers in their ignorant hands. Alan Clark was perhaps the most voluble in his disdain of his Devon constituents, but you can tell that many MPs would prefer it if annoying things such as the electorate would just disappear and allow them to carry on with important things such as lunch and decorating their country houses.

I'm not so unsympathetic to their views, but I feel that they should have chosen a different profession. If they had gone into merchant banking then not only could they have travelled in first class, they could also have got us to buy the whole train for them. When I'm forced to travel by train, I tend to hop between classes. If somebody is paying for my trip, I go first. I sit in splendid isolation, save for the odd businessman talking complete nonsense into his mobile to somebody at head office in Reading about whether they have received an email and... actually, could they just keep talking as "that way, the voices won't come again and when I'm not talking I feel so lonely, and have suicidal thoughts, and I'm sitting next to a man who I think is an MP but I can't remember his name because they all look the same... Hello? Hello?"

When I'm having to spend my hard-earned money, however, it's cattle class for me. Sir Nicholas has a point – it's a frightening place. Huge women sit with several screaming children, while drunk men with tattoos stare at you sullenly as they crush cans of Tennent's with hairy hands. Occasionally, elderly couples wearing cagoules approach your seat and claim that it is theirs. They will tell tall tales of having reserved their place back in 1998 and, if you dispute this, they will go and get the conductor.

This man will be in an ill-fitting uniform, unshaven, possibly hail from the Balkans, and will look very unhappy that he has been awoken. Fortunately, he will speak no English and will shrug his shoulders at the situation before retreating to his cabin for more sleep. Often, however, he will not be able to go back to sleep, so he will decide to practise his English on the train public announcement system. You will never be fully cognisant of what he is talking about.

Often, he will speak of a bomb on board that you must not touch, and then read the entire menu on offer at the buffet car, despite it actually not having anything but cheese and onion crisps. Sometimes, a man who follows football will get on and start singing incoherently while vomiting on a magazine that tells you how funny Michael McIntyre is. You must never tell the man to be quiet, however annoying he is, as he is carrying a knife.

Knives are not permitted in aeroplanes or in first class on trains. In standard class, however, they are... standard. In fact, should you be travelling in standard class you would be advised to carry one yourself as there will almost definitely be a gang of youths "steaming" your carriage. This is when bored young people run through a train stealing things. If you do harm one then simply claim parliamentary immunity or run into first class. I hope this has been helpful.