TELEVISION / Working-class zeroes: Giles Smith reviews 'The Tattooed Jungle', Tony Parsons' contribution to Without Walls

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The Independent Culture
The function of Without Walls (C 4) is to stir things up. So, enter the writer Tony Parsons, carrying a large wooden spoon. 'The trouble with the working class,' he said, 'is they're such peasants.' But perhaps the point where most viewers would have gasped was where Parsons said that hadn't always been the case.

Evidently, merely 30 years ago, these people were 'the proudest, the bravest, the most generous and the best'. They would behave themselves at sporting events. They would 'get down on their knees and scrub their doorsteps every morning'. Following extensive research into Pathe newsreels of football matches, Parsons was able to pronounce his ancestors 'hopeful, happy and fundamentally decent'. (Newsreels were, of course, famous sources of middle-class propaganda, but what the hell.)

And somewhere along the line, claimed Parsons, this British idyll had collapsed and become an entire community besotted with lager, hooliganism and baby-eating dogs called Tyson. 'My skip overfloweth,' said Parsons, whose tirade rather cast into the shade the contributions from other variously disenchanted members of the lowest stratum.

Danny Baker, for instance, claimed at one point that fist fights at football matches were a form of orgasm, which made you wonder what sex with Danny Baker must be like. And that famous social historian and Radio 1 DJ Liz Kershaw referred to the previously unheard of practice of 'docking your forelock' which only illustrated just how far from her roots she has come.

Meanwhile, Derek Jameson's defence of his origins might have been moving, were it not that he is unable to talk about his background without adopting a language only otherwise used by underage chimney sweeps in Dickens novels. 'If you've got nowt,' he said, 'you ain't worth tuppence.' Blimey.

But how did all these working-class people come to be on our television screens, anyway? By extension of Parsons' argument, this programme exemplified the rot it was chastising. In the way that boxing, baseball and basketball present black Americans with the opportunity to escape the ghetto, so television now serves in our society to offer white oiks who can't talk properly the chance to haul themselves out of the mire. Here they all were: Danny Baker, Liz Kershaw, Derek Jameson - each of them making a comfortable living from broadcasting when, in the world Parsons pined for, they would all have been kept in their rightful place, gratefully doing manual labour, carrying their rattles to football games and scrubbing their doorsteps. It's a national disgrace and someone should speak out against it.

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