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Expecting resistance

This article is over 19 years, 10 months old
England Expects, a new BBC drama, aims to uncover the violence behind Britain's fascists
Issue 1895

‘ENGLAND EXPECTS every man to do his duty.’ So runs the motto of lead character Ray in this new BBC drama, appropriated from Nelson’s battle cry at Trafalgar. This duty is apparently to ensure that all ethnic minorities are forcibly removed from his east London community. Steven Mackintosh gives a convincing performance as a security guard with latent fascist beliefs that resurface when his family is refused a council house.

They are under the impression that they will all be given to asylum seekers or Muslims. So, to make himself feel better, he decides to revisit his old haunts and discovers that the old party of football hooligans and street thugs is now mainstream and respectable and is standing a candidate in the local elections.

Fuelled by hopelessness and despair at his life falling apart, he finds solace in the politics of hate that the fascists provide and gets stirred up by the hysteria around Muslims and asylum seekers. The first two episodes of this drama reveal some good intentions and are quite accurate in a number of areas.

The suited leader of the party, Larry, explains to Ray that it might help their cause if there was a small attack on someone, nothing major, just enough to get the Muslims to react. This is a very accurate picture of fascism today, where they appear in nice suits in public but behind the scenes are still engaging in the same strategy of violence and intimidation to get what they want.

Despite appearances, nothing has changed in the last ten years. But the programme falls down in many other areas. The view that we must be watchful of all Muslims as they are all potential terrorists, and that asylum seekers are taking over, is one that is portrayed as the norm and it goes unchallenged.

Not one voice of opposition to this racist filth is heard from a single character. The fascists are seen as having a point when an Asian family do get a new council house.

A protest is held outside a fascist meeting, but there is not one white face present. All white people are portrayed as racists or sympathetic to their views about Muslims and asylum seekers-not one is shown as being able or willing to fight back against racism.

Much more could have been done with what was a potentially a good idea, especially as it comes in the year that the British National Party (BNP) is making an unprecedented assault on the electoral system on 10 June. But at least in real life there is loud opposition in the form of Unite Against Fascism.

Unite will be campaigning across the country to make sure that the BNP does not make the electoral breakthrough it expects to, in the local, Greater London Assembly and European elections.


  • England Expects starts Monday 5 April, 9pm, BBC1.


    Spirited away by three great things

    RADIO The Duel Radio 4, Saturday 3 April, 2.30pm

    THE DUEL is a play about the miners’ strike. Writer and producer Jeremy Howe spoke to Socialist Worker about the play: ‘THERE HAS been a lot of coverage of the strike, but it has mostly been retrospective and from the viewpoint of the communities involved. We wanted to tell the story from the point of view of the smoke-filled rooms and cabinet meetings.

    The Duel is about Arthur Scargill, Peter Heathfield and Mick McGahey versus Margaret Thatcher and Peter Walker. We look at the negotiations between the TUC, the government and the Coal Board. Orgreave was the greatest event of the strike, but we wanted to show the whole sweep of what happened. We used the memoirs of people like Walker and Thatcher, and journalism and other records.

    The strike was a very, very close run thing, right up to Christmas 1984. It was not inevitable that Thatcher won-it could have gone either way. The cabinet records show they were very rattled when the dockers went on strike. When the pit deputies voted to strike there was a real sense that the miners could have won. If Scargill had managed to shut Orgreave down, it would have been a major victory for him.

    You can have all the planning you like, but politics is made up of events and no one knew which way the dice would fall. The story of the miners’ strike is very dramatic.

    The phrase about them being the ‘enemy within’ shows how important this conflict was. It was a defining moment of Thatcherism, and if she had lost, the last 20 years could have been very different. The miners’ strike was a key event of our times. I thought it was worth recording the drama.’

    FILM Spirited Away Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

    ANIMATED FILMS are not just children’s stories churned out on the Disney production line, as the Japanese film Spirited Away shows. It mixes a disturbing plot with moving and funny moments. The film uses hand-drawn animation to astonishing effect.

    Ten year old Chihiro’s trauma starts after her parents break their journey to the new family home and are seduced by free food in a ghost town’s cafe. The surreal chain of events is a powerful comment on modern-day Japan.

    Helen Shooter

  • The film is now available on DVD for £19.99 and video for £15.99.

    PLAY The Permanent Way Written by David Hare

    THIS BRILLIANT play about the disaster of rail privatisation has just been given an extended run at the Lyttleton Theatre in central London because of its popularity. It runs from Saturday 3 April to Saturday 1 May. To book tickets phone the box office on 020 7452 3000.

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