Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Re-Appraising The 'Lotto Lout'

Tonight brought us 'Michael Carroll: King Of Chavs' on Channel 4. It was presented by 'Fat Les' member and 'Shallow Grave' murder victim Keith Allen, who was actually trying to give a reasonably fair look at a man who has been consistently attacked and vilified in the British tabloids for the last three years.

For the handful who don't know, Michael Carroll is the former dustbin-man who won the lottery three years ago, netting a cool £9.7 million. Carroll, who had had several previous court appearances before this win, proceeded to buy an enormous mansion, buy loads of cars, which he then banger raced with, split up with his fiancee and lost contact with his two year-old daughter, had a succession of court appearances related to drugs and public order offences, got himself a posse and gave himself the moniker 'King Of Chavs.' An eventful three years then.

Carroll has consistently been portrayed as an exemplar of the dangers of 'the wrong sort' coming into the money. Detractors of the lottery, and mouth-pieces of the outraged middle-classes, particularly the Daily Mail and the Daily Express, love nothing more than to run articles on him as a sideways attempt to batter the lottery. Allen had even found a clip, which appeared to be a respectable sounding journalist with a received pronunciation accent, asking 'should people like this be allowed to win such large amounts of money?'

The lottery is just that - a game of chance. The Mail and its ilk love to denigrate the lottery, attacking some of the more outre 'good causes' it gives money to, and gleefully pointing out 'undeserving' winners, including Carroll and the convicted rapist Iorworth Hoare. However, they consistently refuse to tackle the lottery head on, and in reality, the lottery enjoys widespread support in Britain. One of the handful of sensible things Tessa Jowell has said during her time in office is the following:

'Over the last 10 years the National Lottery has become part of the fabric of life in this country. It has raised nearly £17bn for good causes and funded over 190,000 projects, changing the face of the UK forever.'

'Lottery money is not Government money. It's not distributors' money. It belongs to the people of Britain who play the Lottery. It is venture capital for their communities.'

So the Mail and the Express don't attack the lottery directly because they know they are on a hiding to nothing. Carroll has become a proxy for everything that they dislike about it, its possibility of social mobility and that the people who win aren't always the nicest bunch. Yet the press routinely misrepresent the truth, even about Carroll - they write of neighbours complaining about the noise from his banger racing, yet always conveniently fail to note that the constantly busy A47 arterial road runs next to his house, and that fighter jets regularly fly overhead. One newspaper wrote a story about him swinging from a chandelier in a posh London hotel - it was a total fabrication.

It really does beggar belief how much the press seem to wish to batter the man. Even his Wikipedia entry is unfairly biased against him. Why, for instance, did the New York Times see fit to write a story about him? Incidentally, that story repeats the fallacy about him swinging from a chandelier.

Keith Allen made a fascinating argument - Carroll, he said, has made a Faustian pact with the press. He loves the publicity (his number plate is L111 OUT), and they love the cheap chav-bashing opportunity it gives them. So steadily his behaviour gets worse and worse, and their outrage gets louder and louder, and they both win. Although, as Allen pointed out - Carroll doesn't. He's now down to his last million, and clearly rather hopes to lose it all. The situation is taking it's toll on him, and he doesn't get to see his daughter, who he genuinely seems to miss.

I don't believe for a minute that Michael Carroll is a particularly nice man. A nice man might not, for instance, have a tattoo of the Ulster Defence Force. Still, he serves as an important example of the pointless and nasty habit of snide Middle Englanders to attack working class people through the proxy creation of the chav (see 'Little Britain' and the Kaiser Chiefs for details).

In an ideal world, the press would ignore the unimportant personal dramas of Carroll's life. This would remove the oxygen of publicity that feeds his bad behaviour, and would stop the inevitable confrontations that his ostentatious display of wealth provides.

The 'lotto lout' gives us the 'Swaffham salute'.


Immediately following was 'The Godfather And The Mob', a fascinating documentary about the troubled production of one of the greatest films ever made, 'The Godfather'. The whole story was deeply engrossing, but my favourite anecdote came right at the end, as we were told by a former FBI man that the first thing they noticed after the films runaway success was that New York's real godfathers started to ape Marlon Brando's mannerisms. They began kissing when they met, kissing each other's rings, and generally behaving in a more genteel manner in front of each other. This had me laughing out loud.

Single-handedly refined America's criminal fraternity.

I take it a "Chav" is a bit like our notion of "white trash"?

Most every State in the USA has a lottery. Usually hooked up to the public education funds. It has been called a "stupid tax" by some. It has, like cigarrette taxes, been called a "poor tax" (despite its being 100% voluntary)

And the winners are often trashy, but they don't usually hit the news beyond the initial winnings announcement.

'Course, they usually don't win more than $30 million dollars or so.
£17bn you say?
You've got to question that figure, it's a staggering amount of money. And it does come from Tessa Jowell.
I mean, it's enough to keep mon cherie in haircuts for another 2,000,000 election campaigns. That's 10,000,000 years of Hair Blair!
SafeT - Sort of, although chav is a completely racially non-discriminatory word, that can equally apply to kids from any other ethnic background.

I never have buyed the argument about the lottery being a 'poor tax'. You participate in these things of your own volition, not at the point of a gun.

Matty - I did have to think long and hard about actually putting a quotation from Tessa Jowell in a post.

Just imagine what Britain would look like after another 10 years of Blair, yet alone 10 million . . .
Hrm... "Trailer Trash," possibly. Although that is still a bit white.
In the US we have a different pejoritive for every ethnicity that produces defective humans.
'Chavs' may well have been created by 'snide middle-Englanders'. However, I would like to point out that this unholy genesis may merely be due to the fact that us 'snide middle-Englanders' have the monopoly on common decency and taste!
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