by Stephen Tall on August 30, 2007
… 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.