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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Easy money?

Reviewed by Ben Soton

The Syndicate, Series Four. Created and written by Kay Mellor, BBC TV (2021–). Tuesdays at 9pm on BBC1, also available on BBC iPlayer. Stars: Neil Morrissey, Liberty Hobbs, Emily Head, Kieran Urquhart, Taj Atwal, Katherine Rose Morley.

WE LIVE in a society where a few people are very rich and most of us get by; from time to time some people don’t get by at all. This system is called capitalism. Some of us have been arguing for a system where everybody gets by all of the time and are able to expand their own horizons and talents to the benefit of society and themselves. This is called socialism or in its more advanced form communism.

Meanwhile, the very rich people who benefit from capitalism have devised ways of keeping the rest of us under control. These range from sheer brute force, media manipulation – another word for lying – to more subtle methods of social control. It could be argued that one of these methods is the National Lottery.

The idea behind the National Lottery is that if you spend £2 on a piece of paper you could possibly win the money to give you the lifestyle of the super-rich: yachts, luxury villas, cars that cost more than your house, watches that cost more than your car, the list is endless. There is a slight problem to this otherwise brilliant idea – it is bollocks. If you ever someone hear tell you that socialism is a good idea on paper but doesn’t work in practice, throw this argument back in their face.

The National Lottery is a grand illusion, rightly described as a “tax on the poor” (Daily Telegraph 27/7/2009) and a “national disgrace” (Independent 17/01/2013).

Lottery winning is the basis of Kay Mellor’s television franchise, The Syndicate. It’s fourth series brings another dimension into lottery winning – fraud.

In this series the lucky winners work at a dog grooming parlour in Yorkshire, owned by the unscrupulous Graham Woods (played by Mark Benton). A shopkeeper, Frank Stevenson (played by Neil Morrisey), steals the ticket however, and runs off to Monaco. Meanwhile our somewhat miffed dog-groomers head after him to claim their winnings.

The series shows society’s problems by zooming in on the lives of the characters. Our winners include Keeley (played by Katherine Rose Morley), a gambling addict, whilst her mother (played by Kim Marsh) scrapes by on a zero-hours contract. Meanwhile Collette (played by Emily Head) is a former student previously forced into prostitution to pay for her studies.

What unites them is gullibility and the complete lack of awareness. For instance, Keeley believes she can win the money to pay for their airfare with scratch cards. This depiction is a possible sign of the BBC’s contempt for working class people and anyone outside London.

But isn’t the Lottery itself based on gullibility? This paper subscribes to the view that human nature is not fixed but is linked to the social system under which we live. We do not blame individuals for wanting more than they currently have – after-all, a demand for higher wages is a demand for more money. Neither would we encourage theft. Is it that surprising however, that a shopkeeper might take the Lottery winnings for himself?

The irony of this story is that to claim their winnings a group of workers must act collectively – the very opposite of what the Lottery encourages. The dog groomers should have perhaps considered collective action against their employer.

Another irony is that when workers organise against their employer they are portrayed as greedy whereas when they win the lottery, they are heroes.