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October 22, 2012 12:30 PM The Great Train Ticket Scandal of 1948

By Henry Farrell

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).

[Cross-posted at Crooked Timber]

Henry Farrell is an associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University.
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