The BBC is currently showing an excellent sitcom, ‘The Thick Of It’, which depicts a harassed, sleep-deprived minister struggling to cope with the plotting and planning of his hopeless media advisors. The satirical point is that, just like New Labour, media management always takes precedence over making good policy decisions.
The show also manages to brilliantly satirise the way so many politicians are completely out of touch with contemporary life. It’s revealed that the Prime Minister is given a weekly videotape of snippets of TV enabling him to pretend he’s in touch with social trends. The minister is dismissive of the tape, until an Alistair Campbell-style spin doctor angrily points out that ‘You don’t know what a chav is, do you?’
An eerily similar situation occurred in the real world this week. Various MPs decided to stick up for the chavs, suggesting that labelling people chavs is snobbish and prejudiced. MP Louise Ellman said:
‘I think it is all too easy to label other groups with ugly-sounding words. I think it is negative and not very helpful.’
This sort of comment is utter rubbish for oh-so-many reasons. For a start, when it comes to contemporary life, MPs are a bit like your dad when he’s trying to be ‘with it’. You know the sort of thing: he’ll say he quite likes some of the ‘modern music‘, citing the example of ‘Kirk Cocaine and his gunge music’, before sticking on some Perry Como.
Ellman has finally noticed a phenomenon known as ‘chavs’ and has belatedly hopped on the bandwagon. The only problem is that the whole idea of chavs was getting a bit stale even before the tabloids recently did the subject to death.
It also makes her look a bit clueless. People don’t hate the underclass or the poor, they hate chavs. The state of chav is not merely about having laughable dress sense, a kid at 14 and no GCSEs, it’s about being a pest. It’s about lolling around pissed on the top deck of the bus, shouting and generally intimidating other passengers, something you can do with impunity because you’ve got your crew of other chavs with you.
To most people, the term chav doesn’t just mean Burberry and bling, it means ASBOs and petty criminality. The rest of the population know this, but not MPs, who’ve taken calling people chavs to be some sort of non-racial racism against the poor. Of course it is. And people think Richard Blackwood isn’t funny because he’s black.
Even more determined to look stupid is meeja-friendly Lib Dem MP Lembit Opik. In yet another demonstration of how MPs think they have a sense of humour but clearly don’t, Opik suggests that the way to get back at chav haters is to devise nicknames for them. He suggests ‘BAPS’: ‘boring and pompous snobs’.
Call 999. Our sides have just ruptured.
(There really should be a word for this sort of dreary non-humour. It clearly has a following, as Radio 4, Punch magazine and Miles Kington amply prove.)
But easily the daftest of the chav apologists is MP Stephen Pound: ‘I am an aspirant chav. My off-duty wear is a Fulham shirt with ‘these colours don't run’ on it. I don't have a lot of gold rings, but I am saving up for them. My daughter had her ears pierced at a fairly young age.’
Oh go and fuck yourself. The difference between being a nice middle class chappie who happens to support Fulham and the actual charvers is so vast it’s actually offensive. Pound isn’t a chav, not even an aspirant chav, unless he clocks off from the House of Commons and heads straight for the nearest corner shop to abuse the staff and do a bit of shoplifting. Equally vile is the way MPs always use football to give themselves working class credentials, as though they’d be just as at home with the Chelsea Headhunters as they are in the House of Commons bar.
He goes on: ‘People who use the word [chav] don't understand the joy and confidence in display [of jewellery, etc.]. They are just jealous that they can't play football as well as Wayne Rooney.’
Again, crap. People aren’t jealous of Rooney. They just despise him. Rooney’s enormous wealth would be handy, but at what cost? BEING Rooney? No thanks.
But above all, what emerges from MPs’ comments is not how clueless they are, but how desperate for attention. If an MP wants to talk about chavs, maybe they should be discussing how to stop youth offending, pitifully low levels of education, teenage pregnancy, sink estates, benefits dependency, etc. - basically all the factors that enable the chav to flourish as a species.
Nah. All they want is a few column inches devoted to their jokey comments and looking ‘with it’. Sadly, they are doomed to always get it a bit wrong. We wish they’d desist, but we know they won’t. It’s only a matter of time before someone slags UK garage music for causing violence, again, and you can bet there’ll be some MP - quite possibly Opik or Pound - to make some witless comment.
‘I’m a big fan of rap music,’ they’ll say. ‘Terrific rap acts like Vanilla Ice, the Wee Papa Girl Rappers and Morris Minor and the Majors.’ “”