Socialist Worker

Murder, intrigue and politics make Peaky Blinders great

by Hope Ryan
Issue No. 2581

Cillian Murphy as the contradictory gangster boss Thomas Shelby

Cillian Murphy as the contradictory gangster boss Thomas Shelby (Pic: BBC)

Peaky Blinders tells the story of a working class-turned-gangster family from Small Heath, Birmingham.

The Shelby family’s navigation through a gangster world left us at the end of season three with the majority of them facing death by hanging.

You get a sense of the murky dealings at the top of the state—royals and politicians are implicated in shady schemes.

The premier of season four thrusts us into a world of horror, brutality and political upheaval—an exaggerated but engaging portrayal of working class life in the 1920s.

It follows gangster Thomas Shelby who is a bundle of contradictions.

We’re often reminded that despite his thuggery he holds on to the memory of his working class upbringing. But he also owns multiple factories and has business interests.


Despite the dramatisation, the series is peppered with accurate historical observations.

Peaky Blinders was a term used describe real gangs operating in Birmingham at the time.

This is arguably the most politicised popular drama on the BBC at the moment. The backdrop for the action is formed from the movements of the day.

Strikers, scabs, Bolsheviks and Irish republicans all get a look in. This political backdrop gives the series its sense of urgency.

You get a sense that world events are shaping the lives of people in one of the epicentres of the industrial revolution.

The series is built around personalities and localities, but never feels parochial.

Another strength are the female characters.

A new character is a woman, communist union rep who demands equal pay between men and women—something that still hasn’t been achieved in modern day Britain.

Peaky Blinders is possibly the only television program that displays so vividly the harsh reality of working class life in early twentieth century Britain.

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Tue 21 Nov 2017, 09:45 GMT
Issue No. 2581
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