Coronation Street is a Tory conspiracy

by Kevin Meagher

The cobbled streets of Weatherfield have never been fertile ground for Labour.

In fact, the residents of those pre-WW1 terraces do not seem to have any political opinions at all. Neither do they gossip about the weather, football, or indeed, television. But that’s Coronation Street for you. A tale of everyday folk that’s nothing like the tale of everyday folk.

As it chalks up its half century, the truth is that Corrie has always been slyly political. Rather than a paean to Labourism, however, it is a bastion of petit bourgeois Tory values.

The small businessman does no wrong. The humble worker is always the pig-headed architect of his or her own woes. The poor are usually loveable buffoons. Simpletons like Tyrone. Bone-idle shirkers like Jack Duckworth. Harridans like his wife Vera. Feckless dole dossers like Les Battersby.

In contrast, deadbeat employers like Mike Baldwin – who literally ran a sweatshop – (until he popped his clogs) treated his workforce of poor mothers and housewives with sheer contempt. But he always ended up on top. And never a mention of the minimum wage or health and safety. “Mr Baldwin” never once received the comeuppance he sorely deserved. Raining Stones this is not.

Over at The Kabin, hoity toity Rita dispenses wine gums, Weatherfield Gazettes and matronly Tory smugness. (Of her surname I have long since lost track, given a predilection for matrimony that makes Liz Taylor look like a one-man gal).

Across the street, we have the Websters. Car mechanic Kevin is a reliable son of toil, but his wife, social-climbing Sally, has loftier ambitions. Despite scrimping to send her daughter to private school, Rosie has graduated into a poster girl for sluttish wastrels everywhere. Sally would have been better sending her to Weatherfield High.

Meanwhile, Audrey Roberts and her clan personify the trials and dilemmas of working class Toryism. For the uninitiated, Audrey – all fur coat and no knickers – is the grande dame small businesswoman. She has done alright for herself. Daughter, Gail, however, has four failed marriages behind her. Three ex-hubbies are dead. Two by their own hand.  (Best not to dwell on the circumstances; it’s not pretty).

Safe to say, however, that she has appeared at more inquests than Rumpole. Gail’s children include a daughter who became pregnant at 13 and a son recently questioned for attempted murder. Social mobility has definitely slammed into reverse for Audrey’s brood. They would keep Jeremy Kyle going for a month.

But Corrie is “character-led”. Dealing with contemporary issues is a secondary concern. Leave social realism to that miserable Jimmy McGovern.

The current storyline about a tram derailment is a classic case in point. Your chance of being killed or injured on a motorbike is 5549 per billion kilometres travelled. For light rail? 0.00007 per billion. It would have been more realistic for the producers to conjure up a swarm of killer bees to mow down the cast for the fiftieth anniversary special.

More prosaically, there has not been a single trade unionist on those famous cobbled streets in living memory. The first openly gay character arrived 25 years after he did in Eastenders. Ethnic characters are sparingly shoe-horned in. And, wouldn’t you know it, end up running the corner shop.

The closest thing to a recognisable lefty is Ken Barlow. Naturally, the actor who has played him since 1960, William Roach, is a stalwart “celebrity Tory”. A former teacher and journalist, Ken even sat on the local council for a bit. As an independent, of course.

Meanwhile, his on-off-on wife Deidre achieved political fame of a different sort when Tony Blair joined a chorus calling for her release from jail for murdering her other husband (that other chap she met on holiday). For a PM fixated on 90 day detention, a slightly odd move, to say the least. Soft on celebrity crime, soft on the causes of celebrity crime.

The evidence is overwhelming. This quintessentially northern, working-class slice-of-life is actually a redoubt of recherché Toryism.

Not convinced? What about long-standing corner shop owner, Alf Roberts? An unfortunate quirk saw art imitate life. The character shared the name with a real life grocer called Alf Roberts: Margaret Thatcher’s father.

Perhaps I protest too much. I suppose there’s one pretty clear exemption to the charge that Corrie is festooned with Tories.

Roy Cropper is definitely a Liberal Democrat.

Kevin Meagher is a campaign consultant and former adviser to Labour ministers.


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15 Responses to “Coronation Street is a Tory conspiracy”

  1. Simon Mapp says:

    Highly suspicious that the live 50th anniversary episode was broadcast on the day of the tuition fee vote and riots, obviously a ploy to distract the proletariat.

  2. Marina72 says:

    I like Corrie but can’t really argue with your spot-on analysis. Thanks for making me smile. And Weatherfield also has no Citizens Advice Bureau, by the way 😉

  3. unseen says:

    Deirdre wasn’t jailed for killing her husband; it was a fraud conviction. She was the victim of a conman who was able to fool a jury into blaming her.

  4. David Taylor says:

    Very good article. However, can’t believe you neglected to mention the Swampy character, Emily Bishop’s nephew?

  5. Agree with some of this, particularly slowness on representation of gay and ethnic minority characters (making Vikram and Anita’s family and later Dev the corner shop owners is not very progressive!)

    Also remember how Carla overworked Wiki and the other Polish girl, who then died. Any comeuppance there? none at all. Not sure if that was a story that was leading somewhere which the scriptwriters then decided to ditch, but that was a shame.

    Comparing Corrie with EastEnders (which I shouldn’t, as I don’t watch the latter), Corrie is interesting as it seems to have made, in other ways, more attempt to ‘keep up’ with social changes. Not BME and LGBT representation of course, but the building of the more middle class houses on the other side of the street, where Gail and Sally now live, the associated aspiration of Sally swapping houses with Claire (Sally’s joy at getting a conservatory and the private school); the brilliant renaming of Jack and Vera’s house as ‘The Old Rectory’ indicates the aspiration they had for themselves too. More recently the building of the more yuppie Victoria Court reflect changes in attitudes and how people live physically. I was pleased Corrie had a couple of Polish characters, but they didn’t really pursue the political angle of it much re ‘elf n safety, and Wiki always had extraordinarily good English.

    If I remember rightly, Alf Roberts was also a councillor, but I don’t recall if he had any ‘colours’ associated with him. I always presumed a Tory.

    I also reckon Roy might have voted Lib Dem in 2005 and 2010, but he’d be disappointed now…

  6. You could not be more wrong! You could try, but you would be unsuccessful.

    A soap set in a terrace in a Manchester Suburb is limited in the range of classes it can represent, so unlike in Emmerdale, you don’t get any upper classes. So the depiction of class issues is between the boss class of small business owners and the workers (becuase by weird soap convention, everyone works round the corner from their home).

    The residents do indeed have political opinions – though obviously they can’t support different parties. From the eco-activism of Toyah, Spider and Emily Bishop, to the fact that the sympathies of the audience and writers were clearly with State supported Roy Cropper protecting rare bat species against evil developed Tony Gordon, there is a stong sense of supporting the little guy with the good cause.

    The fact that “the small businessman does no wrong” is negated by your very next paragraph shouldn’t stop us from further investigating just how wrong this claim is. Business owners in Corrie fall into two very distinct catagories – those who run happy businesses with well treated staff and those who don’t. Those who do, run these businesses for many years reasonably successfully. The ones who don’t never hang on to the businesses for long as their attempts at wheeler-dealing and screwing others over always rebounds on them.

    So Cab Firm owners Steve & Lloyd are left to get on with their amusing and close relationships with staff, while the Factory is nearly always a seething turmoil of problems between staff and management. The most bizarre claim is that they don’t have a trade unionists. The Factory staff have been on strike twice in the last ten years, and Hayley clearly acted as shop steward during those negotiations and continues to do so on a routine basis.

    Corronation Street has done more to rehabilitate the image of the “underclass” than any other social force I can think of. The clear work ethic and moral core of Fizz and Chesney – despite their apalling parents and the rehabilitation of the practically feral Becky (without taking away what makes her such a great character) is a clear two fingers to the writers of shows like Shameless who invite us to laugh at and judge rather than know and enjoy people of low social class.

    It may be that Corrie took a long time to have openly gay characters (though there were 15 rather than 25 years between Colin Russell and Todd Grimshaw) but my goodness they’ve more than made up for it since. We have happy settled teenage lesbians challenging the unthinking judgement of their church, Roy and Hayley marrying now they are legally allowed to – in a wedding attended by all their accepting and celebrating neighbours and well rounded Shaun Tully, who may be camp as Christmas, but is as well rounded as any other character on the Street.

    Finally (though I could go on all day), your use of Rosie Webster’s education as an example of Corrie being Tory is simply bizarre. The contrast between shallow, venal, superfical and privately educated Rosie, and her intelligent, charming and well rounded state educated sister is – frankly – a hymn to the comprehensive education system.

    Oh and Roy Cropper has far, far too much moral intergrity to vote Lib Dem. He may well have been Green, but I suspect Ed’s giving him pause to look again at Labour!

  7. Tim Sewell says:

    At least Corrie still has some characters who are recognisably poor. I have to admit I haven’t watched an episode of any soap in over 10 years, but when I was an avid watcher I remember being perplexed by how quickly pretty much the entire cast of Eastenders went from being fairly deprived in the early years to identikit LMCs.

    Possibly it was to do with the re-mortgage-fuelled aspirational consumerism which characterised the late nineties and early noughties and audiences just wanted to see characters with whom they could identify, rather than being reminded of the many who were left out of that illusory boom.

  8. Jono says:

    What about ida clough the militant trade unionist?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ida_Clough#Ida_Clough

  9. Holly says:

    Another silly load of nonsense,by a bunch of Labour has beens.
    You will continue to call the Tory toffs,and we will continue to gain more support as we go into our second term in government.
    History shows that Labour will continue to believe taxpayers should fund everything and everybody,which is why the country has disintegrated as far as it has.
    With the plank at the wheel,stiff and unbendable,you will stay in opposition,
    wailing about unfairness while many who were put & left to rot on benefits will begin working,NEVER to return to Labour ‘values’.
    As a life long Tory voter,you lot are getting exactly what you deserve….nothing.
    Labour have no morals,no values and best of all NO POWER.
    I grew up on a massive council estate,from a single parent family.I went to the local secondary school and I STILL HATE everything about Labour ‘values’.
    They make people poor and keep them there.
    Credit to ‘New Labour’ they went one better in the ‘fairness cr@p,they have made EVERYONE a lot poorer and only the very rich,a lot richer.
    DO NOT delude yourselves that you will re gain power at the next election,you will not.
    Try as you may to bring it down the coalition is STILL intact,your scare stories widely missing the target. With only the looney left for company,while the majority of the country move away from you.
    The changes the coalition are making will detach the public sector from your petty hate of the right,leaving you with a rag tag bunch of supporters who no one listens to,we are not listening now,but you won’t get it through your heads.
    Labour is finished and for them to maybe stand a chance of winning in about twenty years,they will have to do what Bliar did…..MOVE TO THE RIGHT.
    Shame innit.And funny.

  10. Jules Wright says:

    only a toytown lefty class-warrior could apply cod-sociology to britain’s longest-running telly programme. only a toytown lefty could use the words “recherche Toryism” to describe it. it’s a soap. it’s escapist. it’s a sit-com. it’s an escapist sit-com soap. with northerners. just like ‘Enders is one with londoners.

    face it kevin: your lot bankrupted the country. again. and the poor bloody taxpayer is taking the hit. £4.8 trillion national debt. £170 billion annual overdraft. 25% of government spending funded through borrowing. public sector bigger than the private sector that funds it – for the first time ever. social mobility decreased. child poverty increased.

    only in labour la-la land could this happen.

    again. as holly rightly observes above, enjoy your opposition because you’re going to there, sniping from deep inside the perimeter of your own insecurity, for a long, long time to come. and when the lib-dems finally implode, the toxic socialist dem-rump will return to labour and the orange book actually-conservative-with-a-small-c liberals will merge with the conservatives. and that, my friend, will isolate the left at its core – as an urban activist fringe – meaning that your ilk will never see government in the UK again this century. the prosecco is on ice.

  11. perhaps I watch too much telly says:

    The accident was apparently caused by a gas leak which the owner of the bar, a delusional wannabe entrepreneur, had failed to report.

    Business owners, apart from those who work alongside their employees and live above the shop like Roy, Dev and Rita, get very short shrift; Mike Baldwin, though prosperous, was universally seen as selfish and grasping, Carla is a moo, Tony Gordon was a psychopath and Owen the local builder is a violent thug.

    In contrast, people who have served a prison sentence are welcomed back to the neighbourhood (John the kidnapper, Graeme the pyromaniac), homophobia and racism are despised, transgendered Hayley is universally respected, and poor families are shown as hard-working, loving and generous. The message is clear; decent people are on the side of fairness, diversity and equality.

    Doesn’t sound like a Conservative script to me!

  12. Ena Sharples' Grandson says:

    As a point of historical information, while Jimmy Knapp may not have enjoyed a Quo-style walk-on cameo on the Street, one of the terrace’s matriachs in the 80s (don’t remember which) did turf out their ‘ideal’ lodger after a week or two’s steady rent payments when Betty Turpin snitched that he had actually been a scab on some picket line of irked ticket collectors at Manchester Piccadilly. False consciousness, probably.

    Also, in my recollection of Wetherfield MBC elections past, didn’t Deidre turn the tables on her former part-time employer Alf by beating him as an SDP-Liberal Alliance candidate?

    But if we’re talking soap interventions in municipal politics, you can’t beat Ian Beale’s failed independent candidacy (I suspect even Ukip would balk at selecting him) and Eric Pollard’s lengthy stint flying the blue flag in Hotton Town Hall.

  13. Oli says:

    I am sure Jim Loach, former Corrie director and son of Ken, would disagree with this analysis

  14. perdix says:

    It can’t be a Tory conspiracy – frequent watching rots the brain.

  15. fan ov dave says:

    Corrie watched by 12-13m viewers is how they wish the country was like not a 3rd world $&%ole created by tony blair war criminal perhaps we should do a soap about life in basra just to remind people of your monterous war crimes

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