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Despite The Writer Siding With The Proles One Wonders If It Did More Harm Than Good ?
There's nothing left to say about BOYS FROM THE BLACKSTUFF . It originally started off as a one off Play For Today in 1978 by Alan Bleasedale and the BBC spent two years trying to find a slot for it and didn't transmit until 1980 . In effect it was written before Thatcher came to power but this show is seen as the definitive voice against Thatcherism which really isn't really the point the writer was making and Alan Bleasedale is on record as saying this himself . For sure it's a heavily political series and one that instantly entered the public consciousness helped in no small part by Bernard Hill's superlative performance as the psychotic Yosser Hughes . Despite being on the side of proles I do worry with hindsight that this series might have done more harm than good . I'll come to that in a moment
What this series does brilliantly is mixing jet black humour with poignant human drama . From the opening scene we have a taste of this as Loggo points out to the DSS clerk that signing on is interfering with his golf lessons . To be fair in all my years of signing on and off at job centres I've always been treated with a modicum of respect and in those days the benefit rules were very liberal . Okay the money was hardly enough to live on but it was a case of turning up at the office every two weeks , being asked if you'd done any work and if not not signing your name and going away . There is a slight element of artistic license with this opening episode where the DSS sniffers are on the case of the dole cheats almost like the Nazis in the occupied territories hunting down the Jewish population and eventually catch Chrissie and co red handed
The moonlighter gang are beautifully drawn and you can see why they're doing what they're doing and Chrissie's conversation with Malloy does point out he'd much rather be doing legal paid employment but circumstances prevent this . He's a good guy doing what he has to do as do his colleagues . Even the police are drawn in a positive light via an ironic scene where the audience are privy to something the Trotskyite Snowy isn't and the only bad guys being the sniffers trying to catch out benefit claimants working for cash in hand
This however is what I meant by the show doing more harm than good . Politicians today must have seen this in their formative years and instantly jumped to the conclusion every single benefit claimant must be at it - doing paid work while claiming benefits . Since 1982 the rules claiming benefits have changed beyond all recognition . Nowadays if someone is out of work for a certain period hey are forced on to a job search provider such as A4e , Ingeus etc where the claimant has to turn up several times a week to meet an adviser and satisfy them they're pro-actively looking for work or else you'll be sanctioned ie benefits will be stopped . The idea behind this that you're unemployed because you don't want a job or you've already got a job working in the black economy . Add to this the utterly shameful rise of the food banks and 1982 despite all the downsides of poverty was another country . One slight difference was that people still cared about the unemployed back then where as obviously no one cares about them anymore
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