BBC1 classic adaptation is as relevant now as when it was written – sadly

David Thewlis as the Inspector and Finn Cole as Eric Birling in the BBC's upcoming 'An Inspector Calls' Photo: BBC Pictures/Drama Repbulic

David Thewlis as the Inspector and Finn Cole as Eric Birling in the BBC’s ‘An Inspector Calls’ [Image: BBC Pictures/Drama Republic].

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen An Inspector Calls, and don’t want to have it ruined for you, it would be a good idea not to read this article just yet.

The BBC took an unexpected – but welcome – turn to the Left for an hour and a half on Sunday evening (September 13), when it screened a new adaptation of An Inspector Calls.

The play, first performed in the then-Soviet Union in 1945, is considered to be a scathing critique of the hypocrisies of pre-World War One English society and an expression of Priestley’s Socialist political principles.

It details a visit by an ‘Inspector Goole’ to the stately home of the prosperous Middle Class (some might say Upper Class) Birling family, where he questions each family member about the suicide of a young working-class woman, Eva Smith (also known as Daisy Renton), revealing that they have been responsible for the young woman’s exploitation, abandonment and social ruin, effectively leading to her death.

Having seen Les Miserables only a few weeks ago, it seems likely to This Writer, that Priestley may have taken his inspiration from Victor Hugo, whose character Fantine’s fall begins when she is sacked from her job at a factory – just as Eva Smith’s does when Birling sacks her, after she calls a strike for higher pay to meet ever-increasing rent costs. Both are reduced to prostitution of one kind or another.

Does this seem familiar to anybody, here and now, in the 21st century?

We have ever-increasing rents and a government that is unwilling to do anything about them other than worsen them with its Bedroom Tax – because it forces the poor out of desirable residential areas.

We have employers who won’t raise wages to cover these spiralling costs, and can remove troublesome workers with impunity because the government has compliantly weakened the trade unions to the point of impotence.

We have a benefits system that, despite being the last resort for people who are otherwise without hope, withdraws payments from the neediest people for the flimsiest of reasons, leaving many of them in the belief that suicide is their only escape.

In the 19th century we had Les Miserables. In the 20th century we had An Inspector Calls. Where is the 21st century expression of this exploitation?

The plot is already written for us: This time, the doomed character would be sacked from their job for complaining that conditions there had created health problems that put them in permanent pain. An appeal to their trade union would fall on deaf ears. Forced to resort to benefits, they would face the inhuman work capability assessment – and fail to achieve the number of points needed to gain incapacity payments, meaning they would have to sign onto Jobseekers’ Allowance. But JSA demands that a person must be fit for work, and forces claimants to carry out ridiculous tasks in order to prove that they are doing all they can to find work. An invalid, unable to comply, would be forced off the benefit if their illness was obvious, or sanctioned if it wasn’t. With no money and no health, what is left for them but death – either slowly due to their illness or quickly due to suicide?

All it needs is a 21st century way of bringing this home to the Middle- and Upper-Class vermin who participate in this degradation of their fellow citizens, or support it with their votes.

Would any writers care to take on the task?

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

If you have appreciated this article, don’t forget to share it using the buttons at the bottom of this page. Politics is about everybody – so let’s try to get everybody involved!

Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
fighting for the facts.

Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:



  1. Mike Polling September 14, 2015 at 4:21 am - Reply

    Referring to middle and upper class ‘vermin’ is not a 21st Century way of bringing the point home. The language of 19th-Century class warfare is not appropriate for the 21st Century. The essential point is that those who have to sell their labour for a living are workers, and those who have the capital to employ them are capitalists. Apparent social class is irrelevant to this – it’s mistaking the appearance of the thing for the underlying cause. Nowadays the majority of those who are perceived (and think of themselves) as middle class have to sell their labour in order to live, so perpetuating the class distinctions that applied in the 19th Century is simply handing the argument to the Tories.

    • Mike Sivier September 14, 2015 at 10:00 am - Reply

      I touched on that in the article. It seems strange that you want to concentrate on one tiny part of it like this, though.

  2. daijohn September 14, 2015 at 5:04 am - Reply

    It sounds like a case for Ken Loach.

    • First Night Design September 14, 2015 at 10:09 am - Reply


    • Guy Ropes September 14, 2015 at 7:42 pm - Reply

      Ken Loach is only up for a cosy life. I’ve spoken to him. Film and theatre? OK – ….but not the real world.

      • Mike Sivier September 14, 2015 at 11:52 pm - Reply

        As art imitates life, though, why should he not be able to create a decent piece of work along the lines described in the article? It wouldn’t impinge on any of his personal comforts to do so – in fact, as he makes his living this way, it would probably improve or extend those comforts.

  3. Bookworm September 14, 2015 at 6:26 am - Reply

    But would it get published now msm is virtually controlled by govt?
    And to reach the audience it needs to attract it does need to be via msm?
    ( I’m remembering the impact of “Cathy come Home”. )

  4. Lisa Reardon September 14, 2015 at 7:34 am - Reply

    Absolutely! Exactly my thoughts last night.
    Very sad, sad times.

  5. Lindsey Kirk September 14, 2015 at 9:17 am - Reply

    I doubt that the modern upper class would react with such guilty consciences if the play were set now. Many of these people are utterly emotionally and morally bankupt

  6. Colin Dunwell September 14, 2015 at 5:17 pm - Reply

    The problem goes even deeper than most can imagine. When David Cameron let slip about Yorkshire people hating each other; he was referring to how this Tory government has turned working class people against each other; asking people to report anyone who may or may not be claiming benefits justifiably. People are now living in fear; as rights don’t seem to have much meaning.

  7. Gary Aronsson September 14, 2015 at 5:26 pm - Reply

    Does it not strike anyone as peculiar that this BBC version hammered away at the idea of everyone having a duty of care for total strangers and that this just happened to be broadcast at the very time that public anger at being expected to accept vast new waves of Third World Immigration is at a new height?

    Does it not seem ironic that the grasping Mill Owner in the original story would be highly supportive of unrestricted mass immigration today because it would allow him to pay ever lower wages while the victim of his greed and his family’s lack of compassion would campaign AGAINST such a policy because she would understand that it would inevitably lead to her own slow starvation.

    I for one find it nothing less than hysterically funny that so many so called LABOUR voters are so desperate to support the enrichment of the already rich via the empoverishment of those who are already poor.

    No wonder the old Labour Party changed its name to New Labour as that was the only group they wanted to help,new labour,the immigrant.

    • Mike Sivier September 15, 2015 at 12:10 am - Reply

      The season of classics currently being broadcast on BBC1 every Sunday evening was planned many months ago, independently of any current affairs. One of the strongest elements of An Inspector Calls was that the person victimised by the exploitative family was not a total stranger at all, so I don’t accept your first two points. You seem to have missed the point that the industrialist was already paying wages that were below the cost of living for his employees; Eva Smith was sacked because she did exactly what you suggest – campaigned against him paying them less than they needed. So, migrants or no, she was heading for starvation due to this man’s exploitation.
      Your opinion is blinkered, to say the least. If migrant workers are pushing indigenous employees out, then it is because employers are paying less than the minimum wage – a practice that is now illegal. If you know of any such employers, you should report them.
      At worst, of course, your attitude is racist/xenophobic. Perhaps you need a new perspective.

      • Gary Aronsson September 15, 2015 at 3:51 pm - Reply

        The BBC NEWS has just featured an item about the fall in the rate of inflation.Part of the explanation was that we have just had a second massive grain harvest and the SUPPLY is far greater than the DEMAND so the price has gone down by 50%.

        I find it rather interesting that while this explanation is perfectly in line with even the most basic understanding of economics and the laws of supply and demand,when it comes to the effect of mass immigration upon wage levels in Britain suddenly we are told that immigration has no effect upon wages,that it is far more complex than that!

        Why do the supporters of mass immigration always insist that increasing the supply of labour DOESN’T lower the PRICE of it? The constant refrain that it is more complex than that ,that people who claim it does lower wages DON’T understand economics or are simply xenophobic is not only insulting to their intelligence but libellous.

        Those who defend immigration defend the importation of cheap labour and the undermining of the British working class,if THAT is what passes for Socialism then you can stick it!

        • Mike Sivier September 15, 2015 at 9:20 pm - Reply

          Wages are decided by the people who pay them.
          No other factors are involved, apart from the minimum wage that Labour brought in.
          Osborne’s planned increase is too low.

  8. Guy Ropes September 14, 2015 at 7:46 pm - Reply

    Maybe someone could help me by explaining how having tens of thousands of penniless migrants arrive in Britain would help the cause of the poor here? Does it simply mean more bodies to the barricades? How will it work – and who has the more pressing case?

    • Mike Sivier September 14, 2015 at 11:51 pm - Reply

      How is this related to the plight of the poor, who are being victimised by the rich?

  9. Daniel Margrain September 14, 2015 at 10:01 pm - Reply

    A Very British Coup is equally as relevant.

  10. mrmarcpc September 17, 2015 at 5:10 pm - Reply

    The entire country is ruled by the class system, always has been and sadly always will be, unless we the working class both grow a brain and a backbone to challenge and usurp the status quo that reigns over us and because of their bumbling, posh, dithering, incompetent, pompous, greedy ways is the reason why they drove and crashed this country is on the rocks, well known and respected director Michael Caton Jones said that the middle class have a chokehold on the British film industry and he’s right, the upper class do too, too much smug, class riven, pompous drivel cluttering up our tv screens too, more real life, more working class tv shows and films to be made thank you!

Leave A Comment