Boris hails a Lib Dem hero

by Stephen Tall on August 30, 2007

Author, journalist, and occasional politician Boris Johnson has devoted his column in today’s Telegraph to hailing a new hero: Lib Dem peer, Lord Phillips of Sudbury.

Here’s why:

… last week he struck such a blow for freedom and common sense that, if there were any justice, the people of Sudbury would now be organising a subscription to erect his statue in the market place. Because it was in that very market place that Lord Phillips of Sudbury faced a moral dilemma, of a kind that many of us face – without acknowledging it – every day.

In an instant, he decided to defy modern correct thinking. He set an example for us all. He did the right thing.

He found three 10-year-old boys cycling on the pavement, and realised their behaviour was dangerous and anti-social, since the precinct was then thronged with young mothers and their push-chairs.

He showed the first signs of heroism by having the guts to tick them off. “I just stopped and told these lads, ‘Look you can’t cycle here. You must dismount.’ ” Alas, he was met for his pains with a salvo of abuse. The 10-year-olds shrieked at the noble lord, who has been married since 1968 and who has three children. They called him a “pervert, a poofter and a paedo”. … these days, children know there is very little to stop them behaving foully, and so Lord Phillips decided to bite his tongue, and went into Boots to continue his shopping, propping up his own bicycle on the way in.

At which point one of the children – still scandalised at being reprimanded by an adult – kicked the bike over; and it was then, as he emerged from the shop to see his bike clattering to the ground, and the children scarpering … [Lord Phillips] gave chase; he caught the child; he grabbed his sweater; and of course he didn’t cuff him or clip him round the ear, or administer any form of early-20th-century chastisement, since he is a humane sort of fellow.

He asked a passer-by to call the police, saying to the child: “If you think you can behave like this, you are dead wrong.” To which, the boy replied, with a chilling grasp of the changed relationship between children and adults: “I am going to have you for holding me.”

And when the police arrived, whose side do you think they were on? They didn’t even tick off the boys, but warned Lord Phillips that he was wrong to try to exercise any authority himself. As a police spokeswoman said: “Members of the public should always have a regard for their own personal safety and our advice is to call the police immediately.” …

We need to work collectively to make use of the fact that the good, peaceful, law-abiding majority vastly outnumber the thugs. We need to restore that majority rule to the streets, to the top decks of buses, and when someone like Lord Phillips is brave enough to show a lead, he should be congratulated by the police, not ticked off.

As he said himself: “You can’t just leave everything to the police, because they are not always around. You can’t just pass on by and hope things will get better.” He’s right, but his insight is useless if he’s on his own.

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A couple of years ago my wife and I “herded” some kids who had been pelting people and buses with eggs, and held on to the main culprit as he tried to escape as a police van appeared. Similar retorts of “pervert, a poofter and a paedo” similar “I am going to have you for holding me.”
Leave it to the police? Similarly the policewoman who showed up ticked me off. Oh, and it had taken an hour for the police to show up from my phone call.

by Duncan Borrowman on August 30, 2007 at 10:29 am. Reply #

We have been encouraged to drop our responsibilities and have been told that the state can take them over.

The state cannot. Unless perhaps if we live in a panopticon state.

With freedom, comes responsibility and risks. If we try to eliminate either of those you lose freedom.

by Tristan Mills on August 30, 2007 at 10:42 am. Reply #

Andrew Phillips is on permanent leave of absence from the Lords BTW

by Duncan Borrowman on August 30, 2007 at 10:49 am. Reply #

Isn’t it ironic that the same elements of the right-wing who are chiefly responsible for the paranoia whipped up about paedophiles, are now the ones telling us how absurd it is that children can get away with anti-social behaviour by accusing adult males who accost them of being paedophiles.

The Daily Hate, the same paper which is notorious for its hysterics regarding paedophiles, is now shocked that every adult that interacts with a child is accused of being a paedophile. As if the current state of affairs has nothing whatsoever to do with its past actions. That’s social responsibility for you, folks…

by leowatkins on August 30, 2007 at 11:26 am. Reply #

These stories do annoy me intensely. I fear that on law & order my instincts are not very liberal.

by Stuart on August 30, 2007 at 3:06 pm. Reply #

Maybe we should be putting up Andrew as our London Mayor candidate?

Livingstone has failed to tackle the problem, Johnson can only write about wishing he were brave enough to do something about the problem, and meanwhile a Liberal Democrat actually goes out and deals with the problem 🙂

by Nick on August 30, 2007 at 4:10 pm. Reply #

Nice ironic emoticon there Nick for that once in a lifetime exclusive of a Lib Dem caught actually doing some work.

Livingstone has failed to tackle what exactly? Kids being cheeky? Kids riding on pavements? Kids with blow pipes and catapults? Did you ever read Just William?

Riding on the footpath should obviously be a capital offence, or if there are mitigating circumstances one for a birching by a horny handed Manx copper.

Hopefully someone will say so from the platform at Lib Dem conference.

by Chris Paul on August 30, 2007 at 5:14 pm. Reply #

Chris Paul’s comment sums it up really. A serious issue and all he can deal in is cheap political points. Maybe he should get an allotment and forget the politics – he clearly needs to think about his motivations for being involved.

by Duncan Borrowman on August 30, 2007 at 8:15 pm. Reply #

I wonder if Boris has been reading Jonathan Calder?

by Alex Foster on August 30, 2007 at 9:16 pm. Reply #

A year or so ago, I found myself in a position somewhat analogous to Lord Phillips.

I group of three kids tried to steal my mobile phone. I grabbed all three of them and searched them in situ, in the street.

None of them called me a “pervert”, “paedo” or “poofter”, they simply complained that I wasn’t entitled to restrain and search them – and retrieve my phone (which I did).

Well, frankly, I don’t really care if I was entitled or disentitled. The brats had stolen my phone and I was having it back.

Calling the Police would have been of little help. By the time they arrived (if they arrived at all), the street urchins would have been long gone. And there is no way the Police would have gone out of their way to help unless I was (1) a relative or intimate of a police officer, (2) a Freemason, or (3) someone mega rich.

Lord Phillips probably overstepped the mark (the boys hadn’t actually stolen anything), but not by much.

Authoritarian conservatives can pontificate as much as they like about the breakdown of society, the decline in family values, respect for authority, the withering of organised religion, etc, etc. But the fact remains that Britain had a more serious level of disorder in the early 19th century when shoplifting attracted the death penalty and child-beating was considered a sacrament.

Even in the staid and orderly 1930s, when my father was a student at Cambridge, it was common for the ex-public-schoolboys among the student population to engage in drunken rowdyism, even to the extent of throwing fireworks at policemen; but this was tolerated, on account of the social rank of those involved.

by Angus Huck on August 31, 2007 at 1:34 am. Reply #

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