Leading article: A dispiriting proposal

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The Independent Online

Here's one to make our Gallic neighbours shrug with disbelief. "Les rosbifs" are about to ban the consumption of all alcohol on public transport. That means that not even a glass of beaujolais will be permitted in future to wash down a meal on the longest and most tedious British train journeys.

This, at any rate, is the threat - all part of a reported new Government "crackdown" on the binge drinking and general unruliness for which as a nation we are becoming infamous.

It is open to question whether the proposed measure will have much effect on the people whose drink-fuelled mayhem makes venturing into town centres up and down the country on Saturday nights increasingly dodgy.

Those who stand to suffer, of course, are the law-abiding majority. That means those among us who are quite capable of both ordering, and then consuming, a beer, or even the odd gin and tonic, on a train without regurgitating it over the person sitting in the next seat.

Hot on the heels of the Government's ban on smoking in public, the latest wheeze to make us better people will certainly bring accusations of nanny state-ism. Why, one can almost hear the sound of the furious debate that will ensue on Radio 4's Today programme.

Much good the chorus of complaints will do. Our government seems bent on emulating the Puritans, whose untiring efforts to lead the nation into the paths of righteousness led to bans on a great many pleasurable activities in the 1650s, from pubs to Christmas to Maypoles. One trembles to think what will come next.