Representing “Ill Manors”

8th June, 2012 1:30 pm

As I’m writing this blog post on the train, a muffled woman’s voice is just about audible over the speakers- ‘Welcome to Stratford, home of the 2012 Olympic venues.’ Just two short stops later we arrive at Forest Gate, the setting for Plan B’s new film and my home. If, unlike me, you didn’t rush out on Wednesday evening to see Ill Manors then make sure you go. It’s sexy, fast paced, and frankly messed up. The sound track is awesome, the content is harrowing and the characters are genuine.

Last night in the cinema as images of my home flashed up on the big screen, I felt oddly vulnerable. What was the audience about to see of the area I know and love? These shops, these streets, these issues don’t get screened often, if ever. At first, I had to control the urge to keep saying ‘that’s my road’, ‘my doctors’, ‘my school’, ‘the local pub’. As the characters developed I began to recognise them as well, my class mates, my fellow youth club members, my neighbours, my constituents. As one character describes them, ‘poster boys for David Cameron’s broken Britain’.

I presume the title, Ill Manors, comes from David Cameron’s assertion last year that parts of our society are not just broken but sick. Sick society, aka, ill manors. The movie takes the audience on a journey through the lives of some residents of Forest Gate. Lives filled with guns, knives, prostitutes, drugs, love, death. Yes it is harrowing, and gut wrenching, but not surprising. For me, it didn’t come across as trying to exaggerate reality, and it’s acceptance of this way of life is exactly what is so unnerving and uncomfortable about it.

I live and grew up in Forest Gate, it’s my home. I’m a governor at Forest Gate Secondary School and represent Forest Gate North as their local Labour Councillor. Do I think that this movie is a fair portrayal of the average life of a Forest Gate resident? No, but it isn’t meant to be. Is it a fair portrayal of some of the lives in Forest Gate? Sure. Does that have broader socio-political implications that we need to debate? Definitely. But let’s not get carried away. It doesn’t need the middle classes intensifying or glorifying it. But reading through the reviews it has created such interest on the left because the left is full of people who care, deeply care, about places like Forest Gate, and the issues that people face there, but equally the left is starved of people who actually get it. Those who live there, grew up there, experience this daily, and are in a position to articulate it are hard to come by. Ben Drew (AKA Plan B) offers that. It isn’t an academic sociological insight so let’s stop pretending it is, and it certainly doesn’t pretend to offer a solution. It is a remarkable observation of a world from a few of those who have lived it, so that others who will never experienced it can gain an understanding.

It isn’t important because huge swathes of society are affected by these issues, it is a very small slice of life, an authentic picture of a minority bought up in a destructive lifestyle. It’s important because this is where the issues hit hardest. The issues surrounding so called chavs, scroungers, and immigrants are all played out here. The effects of the numerous cuts and benefits changes are being felt here. This is where it hurts, and where it has a lasting effect on society.

Decide for yourself if it is the ‘greatest protest movie of our time’, or just a romanticised, over exaggerated, gangster film. Go and see it. Take your MP. Gasp, laugh, cry, take it in. If we must take something more from it, maybe it could be leaving the cinema committed to building a new generation of working class MPs. Realistically they aren’t going to be the crack whores or drug dealers portrayed in the film but they will at least get it. They will get what the Welfare Reform Bill means because it directly affects their family. They will understand the Legal Aid Bill because it affects their neighbours, and they will see the benefit cap impacting on not just the people but the society that surrounds them. That is what the country desperately needs in order to crack some of our most complex problems and support the most vulnerable, MPs who understand and are seriously committed to representing our ill manors.

Value our free and unique service?

LabourList has more readers than ever before - but we need your support. Our dedicated coverage of Labour's policies and personalities, internal debates, selections and elections relies on donations from our readers.

If you can support LabourList’s unique and free service then please click here.

To report anything from the comment section, please e-mail [email protected]
  • Billsilver

    I presume the title, Ill Manors, comes from David Cameron’s assertion last year that parts of our society are not just broken but sick. Sick society, aka, ill manors.Bit of a stretch isn’t it, this weird assertion?”But reading through the reviews it has created such interest on the left because the left is full of people who care, deeply care, about places like Forest Gate, and the issues that people face there, but equally the left is starved of people who actually get it.”And where were the people on the left who really cared, deeply cared, and where was the Labour government when this all developed under their noses?”……………….committed to building a new generation of working class MPs.”

    Surely only when middle class gels like Georgia Gould aren’t parachuted in to safe constituencies over the heads of the Constituency Party members.

    •  Don’t you mean Georgia Gould MP? No, you don’t, because she isn’t an MP. She wasn’t selected, so your complaint doesn’t stand up on its own merits.

      • Billsilver

        But she was imposed on the CLP shortlist by her dad’s mates.

  • treborc1

     Well I’m all for working class MP’s sadly we need to get the working class voters back, and then look for a leader who is able to speak without meaningless drivel about squeezed middle class or hard working people, even if he  reads Marxism. 

    It’s a long hard road back to the type of labour socialist party your talking about sadly.

  • The real working class

    Working class MPs will likely abhore the characters portrayed in this movie as they are the antithesis of everything that WORKING class people strive for. Feckless, lazy, world-owes-me-a-living, gangsta, trouble-making, loudmouth, yobs who’ve been spoilt by parents incapable of instilling discipline, or anything else, in their lives. The very people who haunt working class communities and blight the lives of real WORKING class people living their.

    • Newham Sue

      From your sorry pen name, to the knee-jerk content of your posting, you just sum up the poisonous divide-and-rule politics, highlighted in Owen Jones’ amazing book, ‘Chavs’,  that the current government and their cultural forces have used to separate  the working classes from those who’d love to be in their ranks  (if only someone would give them the chance to have a decent job/ training)

      Ironically, the central characters in ‘Ill Manors’ – like many equally troubled folk of their ilk in real life – grew up in care, so they’d probably have loved to have had parents present in their lives to spoil them – in fact, just to be present full-stop. 

      Your utter lack of empathy or understanding of the problems faced by folk existing 
      in the ‘Ill Manors’ across the land, purely serves to highlight the timeliness of this article, but also that seeking out folk from working class origins alone may not solve the lack of understanding of such areas we’re  currently seeing at the highest levels.

      • treborc1

        I suspect if your working class you can make up your own minds about a film, to be honest these days i cannot afford to go to the cinema anyway being non working and not one of Labour hard working.

        • John Dore

          Given your constant name calling and obtuse posts, your forgot to mention that you have no class or dignity either.

          • treborc1

            Bore mate give it a rest

          • Dave Postles

            Vain hope, I’m afraid.

          • John Dore

            Aw didums, Johnny was saying stuff that Davey wavey and the board idiot didn’t like.

            Damn straight. Isn’t it kind of fascist to want to silence those you don’t agree with? Given that you two don’t do debate unless its your way of thinking why don’t you just talk to your own ilk and leave everyone you don’t agree with alone?

          • derek

            Hey you missed out me? Fascist? shooting rabbits John?I tell you this John (working class lingo) Dave and Treborc1 are giants on this thread and their contributions are much appreciated.

      • John Dore

        I think you are far too generous. You give them a job and they do badly and bang an immigrant takes it. Either you wake up to the issue or nothing will be done.

        • derek

          Where is the evidence that they do a bad job? isn’t it about profiteers making more bucks by employing people on lesser terms and isn’t it the case that lower paid jobs create lower quality goods.

          • John Dore


          • derek

            Poor manners!

          • John Dore

            My mum chastised me for that, but the post stands.

          • treborc1

             “Rubbish” is a post and your the one who says we do not always discuss or debate.

          • John Dore

            In the words of Mr T………..

            Shut up fool.

          • derek

            Yeah! I guess the post is still there.
            You don’t buy dignity you create it and you don’t create it by repressive measures. Your kinda just floating the idea that it’s just the British way of life now, where everyone swallows their dreams like their beer and skips to the music as they step in line.

            I’ll suggest a line? lets see if you swallow it? A fair days pay for a fair days work. 

          • Dave Postles

            Excellent response.

          • John Dore

            ” A fair days pay for a fair days work.” 
            If you had the inclination you could search back through my posts and you see I wrote exactly that a couple of days ago. Do you accept that there are some for whom this is undesirable? ie less than a fair days work for a fair days pay? That is the crux of it, the inability of some to accept that eventuality.

          • derek

            Inclinations? you guess all you want.I’ll just be truthful about the situation.
            Undesirables? another misfiring neuron. No matter where my eye’s do gaze I never see another as undesirable.

            There a girl I know,she works in the local shop, every day she sells cigars to the local factory owner, whom just happens to have an all year suntan and after every sale she says to herself! it really must be nice to afford a good life really.

          • AlanGiles

            Obviously you have not been to places like Newham, Waltham Forest, hackney, barking and Dagenham so far this century.

            There are not that many jobs to go round. This isn’t 1965 when we got as near full employment as we are ever likely to get now.

            If you travelled down the high streets of these places you would see old established businesses closing down, the small clothing factories in Newham and Barking, usually in  shop premises, have closed to be replaced by betting shops, and 99p Shops and there are only so many jobs available in these.

            Last week I was in York Road Ilford, which not that many years ago housed a dozen or more small clothing factories and workshops. Now there are none. One such mini-factory now houses a “beauty parlour” where women with nothing better to do can stick their feet in a bowl of live fish!.

            Don’t blame ordinary poor people for being unable to work when there is no work for them, but if you were a REAL Labour person, you wouldn’t need to be told this.

            But you are not really a Labour supporter at all – you seem to belong to the Marie Antionette school

          • Newham Sue

            Ill Manners even (sorry!!)

          • derek

            If you knew “Newham Sue” if you knew why I feel sad O’ Newham O’ Newham Sue!  (sorry!)

          • john P Reid

            rebuying back council homes, scrapping riot police, nationalisng the 25 biggest industires, unilateralism leaving the Eu ,weren’t in the 1974 manifesto,
            and Peter MAndleson said that the 74 manifesto was so ridiculous it put us out of pwer for a generation.
            How anti racist mathematics or banning bah bah black sheep was oppsing racism i don’t know,
            tony Benn did say labour lost the 83 election as the manfesto wasn’t left wing enough
            tony benn for saw the new right, well he should have kept quiet after the 83 eLection and not  caused Labour to be out of power for another 8 years when he oppsoed Kinnocks reofrms,
            you Just look back on the 80’s with rose tinted lenses denying the hard left put us out of power for years, andyou should come back when you admit this,

            In both Philip gould ,tony blair and Peter MAndlesons biographies they all claimed they beleived that Had John Smith Lived that laobur would have lost the 1997 Election and htat they planned to challenge Smith after he’d lost the 97 election, remember that labour were 26% ahead inin 1990 and the tories won the next election, andthat even after black wednesdaY the polls ON the day before John Smith died had labour only 1% ahead of the tories , Sue I suggest that you please review laobur hsiutory the 1987 election was on BBC parliament tv yesterday, it’s a good place to start.

          • Alexwilliamz

            Hahaha. John Smith losing in 1997. Well I wonder why they said that? Other than to justify their own actions. Were you around in 1997? Sorry to say that Labour would have won that hands done with John Smith just as they did with Blair. However it does suggest just how disloyal and ruthless those men were if they had already been planning to depose Smith. Still I guess its trues what they say about who write history.

        • Newham Sue

          And why is that John? Because usually they’ve been failed by the education system and lack the level of training available elsewhere.

           I’m certainly not saying that there isn’t an issue or even denying, as “the real working class” claims, that such people are a blight on their communities, all I’m arguing is that there are reasons why they’ve turned out the way they have and  that, as much as these problems need to be dealt with as a matter if urgency, they equally need to be understood and recognised as a shared responsibility for society.

          • John Dore

            I really appreciate you coming back to me. I think we can both agree that the debate needs to take place centre stage, without the left wing decrying “your a Tory” every time the topic is raised..

          • Newham Sue

            Agreed, though I do think the Tories and their minions have done a great job of splitting the working class camp in to goodies (buy own homes, work, nice little consumers and savers etc) and baddies (live on benefits, rent social housing etc etc) and then convincing them to buy into this dichotomy – just as they’ve sold us all the definition of “efficiency” as throwing qualified, experienced staff on the dole and having one person doing the jobs of five (with resultant collapse of services, rise in mental health issues etc etc)….

          • John Dore

            I think we’re in agreement and this is where we need to take the fight back to the Tories. The dignity of opportunity and the welfare for our sick and elderly.

    • John Dore

      The real working class live in fear of these people. Politicians don’t listen because they don’t generally vote. Including them in the description of working class is a unfair to the real working class of this country.

      We need a national debate now to understand how we fix the problem. Other classes do not suffer the ravages of this section of our society.

      • treborc1

         Politicians do not vote? really

    • AlanGiles

      Could we have a moratorium on the use of the word “feckless” on Labour List?. 

      This is not the Dorking Conservative Club

  • Johndoe

    Hmmm – is your MP not working class enough for you?

  • Dburty

    “I presume the title, Ill Manors, comes from David Cameron’s assertion last year that parts of our society are not just broken but sick” – no “ill” is common street slang, someone who professes to be from the trenches of  forest gate would know
    “the left is full of people who care, deeply care, about places like Forest Gate” – its the left that keep places like forest gate in perpetual and  cyclical depravation

    The most ludicrous assertion you make is that Bills passed just mere months ago are somehow to blame for these problems…this is a generation brought up under 13 years of new labour, the blame lays squarely at your feet 

    • Newham Sue

      ….you mean the same Labour government who were dealing with the 18 years of Tory cuts  and all-round neglect that had preceded them?

      Just out of interest, to give me a laugh as I move into the weekend, what exactly would the Tories or Liberals  or which ever party you support get up to in Forest Gate (allowing that you’re not just some floating internet troll in need of reaction) to turn things round?

      • Johndoe

        On that arguement – why should any Government try to fix anything then? Lets just blame it on the last guys!

        • Newham Sue

          That’s not what  I meant. All I was saying was that the Labour government inherited a huge burden after the Tories’ years in power, which limited their ability to work miracles and undo the years of damage that had been wrought. Any goverment coming into office after nearly 20 years in opposition will have a lot of work to do, but when you’re facing 20 years that has seen the sell-off of swathes of social housing (unreplaced), the denationalisation of utilities and key industries and the wholesale destruction of Britain’s manufacturing base, unplugging whole local communities, that challenge becomes particularly, erm, challenging.

          And I’m still waiting for Dburty to tell me what his party of choice might have achieved in Forest Gate  and how

          • Dburty

            Get real, you inherited a booming economy and tax revenues…which you wastefully splurged creating welfare dependency in areas just like forest gate…actively scorned and ridiculed social values such as family in the name of cool, liberal metropolita, the results of which we see in the broken homes depicted in this film….believe me, I live in Walthamstow, which is a perfect example of the true destructive power of the left since it has been run by a Labour council from the 1960s….education, culture, community, local business, all once thriving, all laid to waste 

          • Newham Sue

            But interestingly, Dburty, leaving aside your painfully naive picture of the Britain Labour inherited (certainly one I’d imagine few in the north would recognise, let alone the poorer parts of London), I’m still waiting to hear you own up to your party of choice and say how they’d have done things differently………

          • Dburty

            typical, more interested if I’m an ‘evil tory’ than any of the issues I raise…no surprise there

            To what I would have changed in aid of poor areas like forest gate

            Stop the welfare dependency built by Labour that keeps generations of families poor

            Reverse Labour’s vilification of values such as family to tackle broken homes

            Reverse Labour’s ‘no blame, rights without responsibilities’ culture  and undermining of the police, teachers, parents through devotion to the political correctness of the Islington dinner party set…discipline in schools, respect for the police, proper punishments for criminals

            Immediately reverse Labour’s mass immigration social engineering experiment, which has been most damaging on poor areas

          • AlanGiles

            Do you actually KNOW anything about Newham, or is this just a general ill-informed tirade?

            Newham, along with Hackney are amongst the poorest areas of London, and you must have been in a different New Labour world to the rest of us: Blair and his cohorts were ALWAYS going on about “rights AND responsibilities” ALWAYS trying to punish people on JSA as much as possible. I didn’t hear the Revd Blair talk against “the family” and family values – in fact “hard-working families” was one of his favourite catchphrases. Reid and Blunkett were quite keen on prison and punishment.

            Perhaps you have been in a coma for 15 years and just dreamt all this nonsense you are spouting

          • Peter Barnard

            “Creating welfare dependency” (Dburty).


            So-called “welfare dependency” was created by the Conservatives between 1979 and 1997.

            According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, social security benefits absorbed 9.9% of GDP in 1978/79 and 13.1% of GDP in 1996/97. Benefits peaked at 14.3% of GDP in 1993/94.

            Housing benefit was 0.4% of GDP in 1978/79 and 1.4% in 1996/97.

            Still, when the main economic policy tool of the Conservatives was unemployment, it’s not surprising …

          • Newham Sue

            Great answer – also tying in very nicely with Andrew Fisher’s article elsewhere, highlighting how the current welfare situation actually does more to help exploitative private landlords and dodgy, underpaying employers (ie folk more likely to be Tory fans).

          • Peter Barnard

            Thanks, Sue (from Newham).

            Re housing : the problem isn’t so much the total number of houses – the number of people per dwelling has been more or less static since 1997 so, using aggregate numbers of housing and population, there has been no underlying demographic pressure on housing (or house prices).

            Rather, the problem is in the distribution of ownership – houses for private rental increased from 10.3% of the total housing stock in 1997 to 17.4% in 2010, while “social housing” declined from 21.3% to 17.5%.

            Even – and this must be the first for any post-war government – owner-occupied housing fell from 68.4% in 1997 to 65.2% in 2010.

            A side-issue that will become significant in the next twenty or thirty years is increased longevity and the sheer number of elderly people remaining in their own homes ; houses from the deceased will not be feeding into the pool at past rates.

            I did read Andrew Fisher’s article – common sense all the way through at first sight.

          • Alan Griffiths

            “run by a Labour council from the 1960s”


  • Terry Paul

    Ellie – well written piece and sort of agree with its underlying tone.

    Yes, having more Labour MPs with real experience of working class life would improve social and economic policy. Labour at times forgot that the Working Class, which still exist, find pride not in getting state handouts but in the pride of work, culture and community. Look at our own Borough – generations of people have grown up with their fathers working in the Royal Docks, Ford’s at Dagenham and the hundreds of small firms which once populated Newham. This gave the borough a pride and identity, which developed a distinctive culture and ethos.

    The so called ‘underclass’ you describe are the creation of Government policy and therefore both Red and Blue Governments share equal blame. Having more working class MPs is along part of the answer – its the policy and its implementation that really matters. 

    • Newham Sue

      But here we go again, vilifying those who accept state benefits (handouts, let’s remember, many have earned with their years of tax and national insurance payments) . I just don’t think distinguishing between the goodies who work in a romantically-painted vision of industry now sadly wiped off the face of the East End, and those baddies in ‘the underclass” is helpful in any way. The majority of those living on benefits do so only because they absolutely have to and  because alternative sources of income/ employment to support themselves and their families just aren’t there.

      I think we’re all agreed that there’s a problem here that needs dealing with (in fact a whole web of inter-tangled social problems), but we really need to do so without descending to the level of caricature. 

      • Terry Paul


        I’m not vilifying anyone accepting state benefits and I think we share a different view on the ‘absolute’ need of people to support themselves on benefits.

        For any evidence of doubt, I seek not to descend into caricature but to offer a personal view on the issues rasied in the article.

        We agree on the ‘inter-tangled social problems’, but after 13 years of Labour, I’m disappointed we didn’t make further and deeper progress to reform the nature or our society and economy to deal with these problems


        • Newham Sue

          So as Labour Newham Councillor, Terry, what would your solution be and how are you pursuing it in our fair borough?

      • AlanGiles

        We should never forget all those MPs (of all parties) who not only accepted state benefits, in the form of “expenses”, but knowingly took more than they were entitled to – and got away with it. 

  • jess

    Haha you get a lot of weird bitter people on Labour List. I agree with Ellie, i’m from Forest Gate too, and  I thought the film showed perfectly how people are a product of their circumstances, all of the characters were damaged individuals, and they were like that for a reason; some had been abused as children others had grown up in care, others had grown up around drugs and prostitution. Ellie isn’t claiming these individuals represent a homogoneous working class, she is saying that these individuals represent the most vulnerable in our society and that policy needs to address early intervention to provide the poorest in our communities with opportunities. Current policy is to take away the little that we did have in places like Forest Gate, as Plan B says in his track “who closed down the community center i used to spend time there, i used to be a member” Labour didn’t do enough for our poorest communities, but what it did was vital, and is now being taken away. I thought the acting was briliant and i saw a few familiar faces of people who live around here, so anyone who says its not authentic, doesnt realise alot of these people were playing themselves. I found the young boys story the most harrowing, since i felt it was the most real, i  lost a friend to knife crime when i was younger, and i am glad people who don’t grow up around this culture have been able to see a deeper illustration of what life is like for many children growing up in such a harsh environment..

    • Dave Postles

      Thank you so much.

  • MikeLaw

    What council estate did you grow up in Ellie?

  • Great post Ellie.  As a fellow Forest Gater I shall look foreward to watching the film. Not sure it will be quite my cup of tea mind?

  • Alan Griffiths

    I think there are some related issues that have not been mentioned.
    1) 31/32 London Boroughs have more than the national average of Graduates amongst their population. (The other one is Barking and Dagenham)
    2) Newham is better than average for young people staying in education after School leaving age and entering Higher Education. A majority of the 16 year olds who took GCSE’s in 1997 a few weeks after Tony Blair became Prime Minister entered higher education by age 21.
    3) Newham is good at getting unemployed people into jobs. Example the success with Westfield.
    4) There’s nothing new or specific to east London about old job opportunites disappearing. What’s new in the past 25/30 years is the number of unskilled jobs shrinking faster than the number of unskilled workers. That’s the most  intractable problem of our age.
    5) If a charater in the film is complaining about a Community Centre closing down; that’s an impression from elsewhere projected onto Newham. That ain’t happening here.

  • Newhamguy

    After over 20 years Robin Wales is still leading Newham down the gutter. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know what to do.

  • CommunityLinks

    C’mon Ellie, you don’t represent ‘ill manors’, you represent yourself. Amazingly after leaving college you have gone into one plum job after another, none of them advertised to anyone else. It’s not what you know it’s who you know huh? How many residents have got the opportunities that you have because of their daddy? At least be truthful…..


LabourList Daily Email

Everything Labour. Every weekday morning

Share with your friends