The Great Train Ticket Scandal of 1948

by Henry on October 19, 2012

The George Osborne micro-scandal (apparently, he doesn’t like mixing with the plebs on the train, but doesn’t like paying the first class fare either) is reminiscent of the C.E.M. Joad train ticket scandal of 1948. Joad was the Julian Baggini of his day

best remembered for his appearances on “The Brains Trust”, a B.B.C programme in which a panel of well-known people were invited to give unprepared answers to questions from the audience. He appeared on almost every edition of this from the very first programme, on New Year’s Day 1941, until April 1948

His career as a public ethicist ended abruptly, when he was caught in the first class railway carriage with a third class ticket.

Joad pleaded guilty at Tower Bridge Magistrates Court to fare evasion on the railways, and was fined two pounds plus costs of 25 guineas. It emerged that … Joad had an obsession about trying to defraud the railways, and he used to carry pocketfuls of penny tickets, lie about which station he had boarded the train, and even scramble over hedges and fields to avoid ticket collectors. He was replaced on the next edition of the programme and never appeared on it again. Possibly as a result of this, in his last years he changed from atheism to religion, as detailed in his final book, “Recovery of Belief” (1952).

I doubt that Osborne travels with pocketfuls of cheap tickets, and while the image of him and his entourage scrambling over hedges with enraged ticket collectors in hot pursuit is delightful, it’s also rather improbable. Even so, it appears as if Osborne, like Joad, is a repeat offender. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next (the pleb-belaboring Chief Whip has just done the sacrificial-lamb thing and resigned, but I suspect this will whet the public appetite rather than damping it down).

{ 33 comments }

1

Gene O'Grady 10.19.12 at 7:27 pm

More than forty years ago when I was doing Greek and Latin composition with Oxbridge educated classicists C E M Joad was a favorite source of paragraphs to translate into Latin or Greek. That’s the only reason I’ve heard of the guy.

Might be a bit nasty and say that he was a good source of nice words saying little that matched some of the lesser surviving classical authors.

2

Tim Worstall 10.19.12 at 7:39 pm

Well, quite, how they could have let someone from St. Paul’s into the Cabinet I do not know.

Arrivistes!

3

Tim Worstall 10.19.12 at 7:42 pm

Err, arriviste, given that he’s the only one.

Still at least under the Conservative/Lib Dem Junta this does not happen:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1379966/Sack-for-ticket-inspector-who-fined-Cherie-Blair-10.html

THE ticket inspector who made Cherie Blair, the Prime Minister’s wife, pay a £10 penalty fare for travelling on a train without a ticket has been sacked.

Arthur Harriott, 39, claimed in an interview yesterday with The Telegraph that he had been victimised by Thameslink, his employer, because his confrontation with Mrs Blair had damaged the train company’s image.

4

Satan Mayo 10.19.12 at 7:50 pm

Joad’s Wikipedia entry is a classic of the genre. Chock full of sentences that make me laugh for no obvious reason.

> Joad’s marriage was thought to be happy until 1921, when they separated.

> He dressed in shabby clothing as a test: if people sneered at this they were too petty to merit acquaintance.

> He was very flippant and was disapproved of by many.

> She was to be the first of many mistresses, all of whom were introduced as ‘Mrs Joad’.

> In his early life, Joad very much shared the desire for the destruction of the Capitalist system. He was expelled from the Fabian Society in 1925 because of sexual misbehaviour at its summer school, and did not rejoin until 1943.

> He involved himself in psychical research, traveling to the Harz Mountains to help Price to test whether the ‘Bloksberg Tryst’ would turn a male goat into a handsome prince at the behest of a maiden pure in heart (it did not).

> He organized rambles and rode recklessly through the countryside.

> He had won the position of celebrity.

5

Hidari 10.19.12 at 8:04 pm

6

Hidari 10.19.12 at 8:06 pm

In terms of train based gaffes it could be much much worse.

http://twitpic.com/b5ley4

7

bjk 10.19.12 at 9:27 pm

What about the Nozick rent control embarrassment? That doesn’t seem to have hurt his reputation as a libertarian.

8

The Raven 10.19.12 at 9:50 pm

Osborne is worth £4.6 million. I guess he figures he doesn’t need to pay the plebs.

9

rf 10.19.12 at 10:12 pm

When did trying to con Virgin out of money become a bad thing? And since when are coppers not plebs? Everything’s going topsy turvy if you ask me

10

LFC 10.19.12 at 10:24 pm

The only thing I recall reading somewhere about Joad (I have not read the wikipedia entry) is that, when asked a question on the Brains Trust program involving a general concept (freedom, let’s say), he would typically begin the answer by saying “it depends on what you mean by freedom….” This happened so often it apparently became a sort of trademark or something.

11

LFC 10.19.12 at 10:29 pm

Ah ha — I should have checked Henry’s link first, I see that verbal tic (or whatever) is mentioned prominently…

12

PJW 10.19.12 at 10:45 pm

“This would be a pleasant world if everybody could just ride and ride.” (Suttree 178)

13

Glen Tomkins 10.20.12 at 4:07 am

@8

Well, he obviously didn’t get rich by being the sort of spendthrift who pays for train tickets, unless and until that extremity becomes absolutely necessary.

14

The Raven 10.20.12 at 5:58 am

Glen Tomkins, #14: pfbt, er, kraw.

15

Alison P 10.20.12 at 9:04 am

And since when are coppers not plebs?

It’s an interesting if insulting comment. ‘Since when’ were any working people ‘not plebs’? What is a pleb, that we – coppers, teachers, waiters – are plebs? I think the breakthrough was for the police to realise they were just as despised by the people they serve as any of the rest of us.

16

Alison P 10.20.12 at 9:09 am

BTW Benedict Brogan – Deputy Editor of the Telegraph – has tweeted ‘I’m getting some really angry texts from Tory MPs asking – I distil – what is point of slogging for cavalier idiots at top.’

Is this the definition of a pleb, someone who is forced to slog for the ‘idiots at the top’. So perhaps even Tory MPs are plebs now?

17

Agog 10.20.12 at 9:29 am

Mr Osborne had no alternative but to sit in first class because the rest of the train had been left in such a mess by Labour.

Thank you and good night.

18

NomadUK 10.20.12 at 11:55 am

It really is amusing when it finally dawns on the hangers-on who thought they were members of the club that they really aren’t. George Carlin told them, of course. Maybe only now it’s becoming so obvious that they’re finally starting to get it.

19

NomadUK 10.20.12 at 11:57 am

Meh. F*cking HTML tags and Google copy and paste. I won’t bother with the link; everyone knows it already anyway.

20

Ventricle 10.20.12 at 1:31 pm

” the breakthrough was for the police to realise they were just as despised by the people they serve as any of the rest of us.”

That admits more than one reading. One straightforward reading would be:

The police now understand that they are despised by the elite, whom they serve. But the police are of course also despised by the rest of us, whom they do not serve.

21

Gene O'Grady 10.20.12 at 4:45 pm

If I may be spared one more classical Joad reference, I remember many years ago reading an article in which someone, perhaps Bion of Borysthenes or Diogenes the Cynic, was described as sort of the C E M Joad of classical antiquity. I guess that’s sort of a contribution to Joad reception studies by now.

22

guthrie 10.20.12 at 5:04 pm

Alison P #15 – the police (well, in general quite a lot of them, especially the older ones with more experience) know perfectly well that the politicians have only contempt for them. One might think it is because all too many politicians lie, graft and change their minds whenever it suits them, but a policeman is tied to the law and is more morally upright. See also the various police investigations of politicians over the last 4 or 5 years which might just have persuaded many of them that the police have to be put in their place.
The real breakthrough is for a politician to act on their contempt and the media to broadcast it.

23

cian 10.20.12 at 5:09 pm

a policeman is tied to the law and is more morally upright

Um, so corrupt policemen are just a figment of the public’s imagination then? The policemen who beat up protestors are morally upright? Plenty of policemen were sucking at the NoTW tit.

24

guthrie 10.20.12 at 7:20 pm

Cian – well, is supposed to be. Reality isn’t quite the same as the ideal. Not to say that politicians have to be slippery, but it seems to be regarded more as a feature with them than as a bug. (Well I think we’re past the stage of generally thinking its a good idea for the police to make up their notebooks and confessions from people. I’m not sure about politicians though)

25

Philip 10.20.12 at 7:41 pm

My dad retired as a fairly high ranking police officer and is not generally anti-tory. He does think they have it in for the police and have unfinished business from the last time they were in power, the Sheehy report, and that’s why they are bringing in elected commissioners, and are proposing to allow people to join at inspector rank and change working conditions. I know someone else who thinks it’s related to the Damian Green arrest. Cian, guthrie might be speaking generally and is only comparing them to politicians.

26

ajay 10.22.12 at 8:49 am

The police now understand that they are despised by the elite, whom they serve. But the police are of course also despised by the rest of us, whom they do not serve.

Sounds good but turns out not to be true, though. Most people trust the police.

27

Sam Dodsworth 10.22.12 at 8:59 am

Guthrie@24 Well I think we’re past the stage of generally thinking its a good idea for the police to make up their notebooks and confessions from people.

We may be but the police aren’t. Would you like me to dig up a list of recent UK cases where video evidence contradicted police testimony? There are plenty of examples.

28

SusanC 10.22.12 at 10:27 am

A police officer and a politician are both in occupations were a reputation for dishonesty would seriously impair their ability to do the job. (And the current problem being that politicians do have a reputation for dishonesty, and this does cause a problem for the whole system. Police officers too, to a less extent).

A politician needs to make claims along the lines of “If you elect me, I will do such and such” — or at least “I will act in accordance with these policy goals”. If the voters don’t believe them, and think the candidate has absolutely no intention of living up to his promises/vague assurances, then there is a problem.

Poiticians also often need to make statements about what government is doing right now, and if the voters think they’re lying, there is a problem.

Unfortunately, we had Tony Blair and the “weapons of mass destruction” nonsense, the Lib Dems getting themselves into a impossible position (going into a coalition with the Tories looked like a betrayal to their left-leaning supporters, going with Labour would probably have seriously upset their right-leaning supporters), and Grant Shapps (who I wouldn’t believe if he told me the time of day).

=====

An ethicist on the other hand, probably doesn’t need a reputation for ethical behaviour at all. (cf. John Holbo on “abnormative ethics”). A while ago my university was contemplating having an ethics course as part of the undergraduate degree, taught by an academic philospher, and my reaction was that if the goal is to get your students to behave ethically, the very last thing you want to do is expose them to academic philosophy…

29

Sam Clark 10.22.12 at 1:55 pm

A while ago my university was contemplating having an ethics course as part of the undergraduate degree, taught by an academic philospher, and my reaction was that if the goal is to get your students to behave ethically, the very last thing you want to do is expose them to academic philosophy…

It seems appropriate, in a thread about C E M Joad, to say: it depends what you mean by ‘behave ethically’. If you want to your students to carry right on doing what they’ve been socialised to do, academic philosophy isn’t a good idea. But actually behaving ethically might require some self-consciousness about your reasons for action, and academic philosophy is quite good at providing that, at least.

Bias admitted: I’m not only an academic philosopher, I also specialise in ethics.

30

Gene O'Grady 10.22.12 at 4:51 pm

I don’t know anything about the UK situation, but in the US there are police and there are police. When my father was a judge, he could have police from ten or twelve different local jurisdictions, Santa Clara County sheriff’s department, and the CHP. He, and I believe almost all judges who weren’t nuts, were very well aware of the rather large range in competence and integrity between those agencies. One in particular if he had a guy from it testifying he went into the case with an assumption that there was a 50/50 chance the cop was at least borderline dishonest, two or three of the others he was genuinely shocked when officers proved to be sloppy in the interest of making their case. He, and I believe most other judges of that era, were more than happy to phone the sheriff or the local police chief to say that if such and such a cop brought that kind of garbage into his court again he was going to throw the case out before the testimony was half complete — and, on the other hand, to offer some tips on professional behavior in his court.

31

ajay 10.22.12 at 5:03 pm

30: that’s unlikely to be the case in the UK. We don’t have nearly as many police forces and they don’t overlap to nearly the same extent. Each area has its own police force. London has one, Greater Manchester has one, Lincolnshire has one, etc. Then there are a few other non-regional forces – the British Transport Police handles crimes on the railways, the MOD Police (the Modplods) handle stuff to do with military bases. And there’s the Serious Organised Crime Agency, which is nationwide and handles serious organised crime. (Comical organised crime comes under the Ministry of Silly Walks.) And that’s it. So a judge is likely to see members of one or two police forces, plus maybe the occasional outsider from SOCA.

32

Philip 10.22.12 at 8:16 pm

Ajay, that’s all true but some constabularies will be better than others. The Met has always seemed to have problems of corruption, probably due to the size of the force and the nature of policing London, and South Yorkshire are now having to look at the miners’s trike as well as Hillsborough.

33

ajay 10.23.12 at 9:17 am

32: Oh, absolutely. Not trying to suggest otherwise – just pointing out that there’s a bit less overlap than in the US.

South Yorkshire are now having to look at the miners’s trike

Ah yes, the Miners’ Trike. Not to be confused, of course, with Northern Ireland and the Tragic Cycle of Violence.

Comments on this entry are closed.