Monday, April 03, 2006

You have to either buy the paper or subscribe to read Johann Hari in The Indy (and if that was your only reason I'd keep your money in your pocket) but for today's article you can get the thread of his argument from the strapline. Writing about his love for 'Corrie', he says... "In America or France, you simply do not see the poor on TV except as mugshots on the news".

Well, just how real is 'Corrie' and who are these 'poor people'? Is Fred, who owns a butcher's shop and is also licensee at 'The Rovers' one of them? Or Audrey, who owns the hairdressing salon? Or Kevin, the Garage owner? Could it be Steve Macdonald with his taxi company? Maybe Mike, or his son Danny, who own the knicker factory? Roy & Hayley, the owners of Roy's Rolls? Or the university educated journalist and street intellectual, Tory Ken Barlow? Dev, the corner shop owner? Or the rascal who owns the builders yard? (There's always a rascal who owns the builders yard, just to show how rascally the manual classes can be). In one sense this small business owning elite in Coronation Street are like the poor... they are always with us. Fat Stan and Eddie had their window cleaning business before Jack got it, Leonard Swindley had his clothes shop way back when, and Len Fairclough was the rascally builder as long ago as the 1960's.

Even during the height of Thatcher & Co.'s assault on working class communities, someone signing on the dole was a rare sight indeed for Corrie and despite its fictional location as a sort of Moss Side terrace, it took the black population one hell of a long time to find their way into 'The Street'. In the last few years the writers seem to have righted this imbalance and recognised the fact that the sweat shop knicker factory just might have the isolated black person working there.

But to get back to Johann's point... does Coronation Street show the poor? Yes... there is always one family that is poor and 'common' and, of course, lazy and feckless. Step forward... Les Battersby... Coronation Street and the nation's 'poor' person, who has shown his total sense of inadequacy by failing (so far) to develop his own small business. Whilst the rest of the street are consulting with the VAT people, Les stands out like a beacon, he is the Street's representative of the non-working class.