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Sunday Herald

How about a TV show called Bonus Street about the life and times of City of London crooks?

THE Channel 4 series Benefits Street is a reality TV show based on a Birmingham street where, according to the programme makers, 90% of the residents live on benefits.

 It portrays them, essentially, as crooks who are manipulating the benefits system in order to avoid work and who spend the day smoking, drinking, shoplifting and watching very large television sets.

It is hard to watch this programme and not feel a sense of outrage – not least at the producers, Love Productions, for pandering to prejudice. Not much love lost there. The naive residents of James Turner Street say they were told they were part of a film about community spirit.

But Benefits Street is essential viewing for anyone who wants to understand how attitudes to the welfare state have changed in Britain. It is a bit like the Ken Loach drama Cathy Come Home in reverse. That programme reflected public concern about homelessness in the 1960s when the welfare state was still seen as a great social achievement.

Sunday Herald article. Click here to read on.

About @iainmacwhirter

I'm a columnist for the Herald. Author of "Road to Referendum" and "Disunited Kingdom". Was a BBC TV and radio presenter for 25 years - "Westminster Live" and "Holyrood Live" mainly. Spent time as columnist for The Observer, Guardian, New Statesman. Former Rector of Edinburgh University. Live in Edinburgh and spend a lot of time in the French Pyrenees. Will that do?


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