Yosser’s Story Is All Our Stories
The harrowing, tragi-black comedy of Yosser Hughes, in Boys From The Black Stuff, is considered by many, so-called experts, including me, to be Alan Bleasdale’s greatest creation. It is among the most powerful evocations of the destructive effects of mass unemployment on communities and individuals, in the North of England. I am using North here in the sense of anywhere above our Mason-Dixie Line, running from The Wash, to Bristol.
Bristol are on our side of it, and make no mistake, there are sides here. How could you not take sides, after witnessing, living through, and trying to put right, the appalling effects of Thatcher’s Second Harrowing of the North. We will return to this. Some people prefer Harrying. Like Tories, and more recently Lib Dem voters. Yes, I’m looking at you.
Over the last twenty years Alan Bleasdale has been kept off our screens by a the poisonous cocktail of an increasingly craven Mainstream Media, the malign power of Murdoch and the Evil Empire of the Sky, and pathetic, governments of all colours, red white and blue, green and yellow. Maybe not green, but you get the picture. But we, the people have not had sight of a major work from Bleasdale since the nineties. He came close with a couple of major projects, but they never happened for one reason or another. Mainly one reason, and it’s this:
Bleasdale is like our other great chronicler of the times, whose name I always forget for some reason, Ken Loach, who also didn’t work for a good few years, when at the peak of his powers. Just think what work he could have created in the late eighties-early nineties, as the Tory juggernaut came off the rails, which were obviously privatised first, before Tony, prised their dead hand off the levers of power.
Tony of course went off down his own third way corridor of power, and tried to undo much of what the Tories had done over the previous eighteen years, which was the whole of my adult voting life. My Dad lived long enough to see Labour get back into power, for which he and I were grateful, but it was not the party of his youth, or even mine. The Labour giants of the seventies, were shrinking, intellectually and morally, becoming pygmies before our very eyes, or just growing old. My Dad loved the other great Tony, in the Labour Pantheon, but Tony Benn carved out his own Greek Marbles, The Tragedy of Protest Without Power, aided by the worthy but donkey-dull, Michael Foot.
There were exceptions of course, but we still have to name the remaining guilty men, and woman. My Mum loved Shirley Williams, and indeed what’s not to like, apart from her doing over of the Labour Party so that Thatcher got in for My Generation. With one or two notable exceptions. David Owen became a sad footnote to his own ego, hair and spitting image puppet. Could have been worse I suppose. He could have been William Rogers, or that other one, the Nick Cleggs of their generation. Who messed it up for My Generation, just as Clegg did for my kids.
Where are we going with this? It seems to me that as the political landscape became more homogeneous under late period Blair, and Cameroons, it lost it’s marbles, lost it’s compass, and got lost in a giant huge great big sandy desert-swamp. Which is where we are now, sinking under the weight of #Brexit #Trump and #PostTruth. We, that is to say They, somehow managed to block first Loach in the early nineties, and then Bleasdale in the early noughties. His final pieces of work, would have been a perfect Millennial Tonic For The Troops, and an ideal way for him to sign off as our greatest living TV dramatist, Dennis Potter being honourably dead these past years.
Surely he could be persuaded back for one last hurrah, just when we need him most. He probably feels he couldn’t write a more bizarre, black, tragi-comedy, than that which has befallen us, and he would be right/write. I hope he is well, wherever he is. A double Knighthood would be in order in the New Year Honours List, just so they could both tell the Queen and Saint Teresa to fuck off.