Monday, February 28, 2011

Crisis? What Crisis?: Britain in the 1970s by Alwyn Turner (Aurum Press 2008)

When the Ropers were given their own series, George and Mildred, they moved out of their Earl's Court home (compulsorily purchased by the council) and bought a new house in the distinctly middle class Hampton Wick, despite George’s misgivings about suburbia: 'All BBC2 and musical toilet rolls.' A new element was added to the existing mix in the form of naked class war between Roper and his next-door Tory neighbour, Jeffrey Fourmile (Norman Eshley). 'I’m working-class and and bloody proud of it,' declares George and the resultant tension between his determination to cling to his class roots and his wife's desperation to escape hers provided many of the series' sharpest lines. When Mildred tries to persuade him to join the Conservative association - in the hope of getting a cheap holiday - she insists that the Tories are essentially a social organisation who just organize events, at which he spits, 'Yeah, whist drives in aid of the death penalty.' Meanwhile the estate agent Fourmile was sitcom's first overt Thatcherite; 'Socialism: The Way Ahead,' he says, reading the spine of a book as he sorts out a stall at a jumble sale. 'Hmm. put that with the fiction, I think.'

Despite his protestations, it's not hard to see Roper secretly putting his cross on the ballot paper for Thatcher, nor to see him joined in the polling booth by Garnett, Fawlty, Rlgsby and even perhaps Eddie Booth. Alongside them would have been not only Fourmile, but also Margo in The Good Life and from Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? - Bob Ferris, an aspirant member of the middle class who might have voted Liberal in 1974, but would surely have opted for Thatcher in 1979. Against these massed ranks, British sitcoms in the '70s could offer few genuinely left-wing characters, possibly Wolfie, the parody of a revolutionary in Citizen Smith, certainly Mike in Till Death Us Do Part, who would ostentatiously read copies of the Morning Star, Milltant and Workers Press in front of Alf Garnett, but there were very few others.


Darren said...

The above quoted passage is from pages 126-127.

Alwyn Turner has a selection of his own extracts from his book over at his website.

stuart said...

I loved George and Mildred, but I was too young to pick up on all the class politics. What I couldn't understand was why George was so resistant to Mildred's charms when she put on her lingerie and tried to seduce him...