The Picaro and the Prole, the Spiv and the Honest Tommy in Leon Griffiths's Minder

Steve Baker, Paddy Hoey

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First broadcast in 1979, Thames Television’s comedy drama, Minder, coincided
with the arrival of the Conservative government led by Margaret Thatcher.
Central to the series’ popularity was the character of Arthur Daley, a shady,
small-time businessman whose proclivity for wheeling and dealing saw him
regarded as epitomising an era marked by the free-market, entrepreneurial zeal
of the Thatcher administration. Arthur’s ‘partner’, Terry McCann, by contrast,
was a disconcerting picture of what life could be like for the working class in the
new economy. As an ex-boxer and an ex-prisoner with a conscience, he relied
on Arthur to find him casual employment as a minder.
Far from reading Minder as an endorsement of Thatcherism and its military
adventurism, enterprise culture and hankering after a perceived past national
glory, this article considers the series as an ironic comment on such pretentions,
and Arthur and Terry as underworld, low-life versions of familiar national
heroes – the entrepreneur and the ‘honest Tommy’. The article also goes
further, situating Arthur Daley’s character in a generic tradition of dubious
working-class enterprise and criminality that pre-dates the image of the spiv,
popularised in British films such as Waterloo Road in the 1940s, going back
to the picaros and proles of the eighteenth century and illustrated in Peter
Linebaugh’s book about the period, The London Hanged.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)513–531
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of British Cinema and Television
Issue number4
Early online date30 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 31 Oct 2018


  • class
  • comedy drama
  • Minder
  • Thatcherism
  • picaresque
  • proletarian
  • spivs


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