Bernard Ingham: What the TV soaps reveal about society’s dirty laundry

The families presented in Coronation Street, EastEnders and Emmerdale, offer an insight into the root causes of our moral decline. Montage: Graeme Bandeira
The families presented in Coronation Street, EastEnders and Emmerdale, offer an insight into the root causes of our moral decline. Montage: Graeme Bandeira
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WHAT have television soap operas and child poverty got in common? More than you might think. But it is a long story.

It begins with those agents of the Kremlin and assorted cranks, including Euronuts, who set out to destroy Britain whether by crippling industry, laying waste to behavioural standards or reducing this nation to a mere collection of regions within a United States of Europe.

Now the Scottish Nationalists are doing their totalitarian best to fragment the UK.

The wreckers saw spectacular progress in the 1960s when they targeted standards of behaviour. What is more, the devil then had the best tunes. It was one of the more melodious eras the West has known.

Now we are reduced to listening to one long screech and bawl or, God help us, rap.

In truth, there has not been much for 60 years to thwart the agents of the Devil apart from Margaret Thatcher and Iain Duncan Smith who respectively tried, or is currently trying, to bring a new sense of responsibility to society, which she defined as you, me and everyone else and not the state.

The Archbishop of York proved how far the rot had eaten into the nation when he joined those misrepresenting Thatcher by accusing her of saying “There is no such thing as society” without qualification. In doing so, he was either unprincipled or ignorant. Neither is an excuse in Eboracum.

Now the results of the wreckers’ handiwork is being paraded every night on our television screens by Emmerdale, Coronation Street and EastEnders.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not an assiduous soap sud. I do not think I have seen a full single episode of EastEnders, though I have read a lot about the jungle it represents.

Latterly, advancing years have meant that I get more than a whiff of society’s decay as portrayed on Emmerdale and Coronation Street.

I have reached the sad conclusion that both are dens of iniquity mostly inhabited by an immoral, conspiratorial bunch of low life not averse to violence.

If this is what living in the Yorkshire Dales and Salford Quays is like, then my advice to tourists is to give both a wide berth lest you get contaminated. They are no advert for the Northern Powerhouse. More the Northern madhouse.

Is it any wonder that the broken families portrayed in these soaps are full of problem children spawned by problem parents, assuming anybody knows who produced whom.?

This brings me to the vexed question of child poverty. It is a meaningless concept because domestic poverty is defined as any household with an income below 60 per cent of the average. On this basis it will always be with us, thereby guaranteeing handwringers an eternal campaign.

I am therefore not as impressed as Duncan Smith seemed to be last week when, notwithstanding his efforts to reform the Welfare State, he reported that statistically child poverty is at its lowest since Thatcher was in No. 10.

This tells us nothing about real poverty – and least of all how much of household income goes in beer, fags and betting.

In any case poverty is not to be measured these days in purely material terms when my wife and I and our next- door neighbour, a Dunkirk veteran, are probably certifiably poor because we don’t have a dishwasher between us.

No, real poverty these days lies in the quality of the family unit. Children, however financially straitened their parents, have the best chance in life if their home is loving and stable and imbues them with a work ethic, discipline and a certain ambition. They are rich, if they did but know it, beyond compare; their parents priceless.

Selfish, self-indulgent parents – with whom the TV soaps overflow – are all too often a permanent handicap for the children they bring into this world. And they make the task of the conscientious teacher very difficult, if not impossible. There is too much evidence of indiscipline in the classroom stemming from anarchy at home.

Unfortunately, lousy parents also serve the purpose of the enemy within education who maintain that schools can only be improved by the application of more resources. A social revolution would pay bigger dividends faster.

I am the first to admit that there 
would be something to say for today’s “soaps” if they saw themselves as 
alerting the public to the threat to 
society of certain lifestyles. But that is 
too much to expect. Modern TV is part 
of the problem.