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"I might vote Labour for the first time since 1992 because of Jeremy Corbyn"

Award-winning screenwriter Jimmy McGovern talks Broken, foodbanks, the 'masterful' Jeremy Corbyn – and his respect for Theresa May

Jimmy McGovern

Broken Britain?

It’s a pure accident that Broken is coming out when the election is on. But I don’t mind too much! It is trailed as a ‘state of the nation’ piece, but I was trying to write about individual pain. So I am a bit wary of it being seen to be about ‘Broken Britain’ – it is more about broken humanity, people who make choices, do the wrong thing and suffer for it. They experience their own quasi crucifixion. That is the brokenness of the title. It is more about broken people. But you can’t do that and ignore the society of which that individual is a member.
“I don’t know anyone who isn’t skint.”
That line from the script of Broken is so real. How can you borrow from people who are skint themselves? Only you could, because working class people are so good. Many people do not know anybody that is not skint. I don’t mean not working, but they have no savings whatsoever.

Anna Friel plays Christina Fitzsimmons in Broken
Anna Friel as Christina Fitzsimmons in Broken, with her children Lisa (Macy Shackleton), Jimmy (Dylan Naden) and Tommy (Gabriel Downes)

Foodbanks

Foodbanks are there because the government is failing. There was a big debate about whether trade unionists should support foodbanks for that reason – we certainly need to campaign against the causes of foodbanks. But we shouldn’t accept the consequences of the government’s badness, for want of a better word. Having said that, again, if you are cold and hungry, you don’t want a debate, you just need food and shelter. The rise in the prevalence of foodbanks under this government – they know what is going on.

Foodbanks are there because the government is failing

Jeremy Corbyn

I might vote Labour for the first time since 1992 because of Jeremy Corbyn. I was in the House of Commons, in a committee room, for a meeting about the Joint Enterprise law. And the man who chaired that meeting was Corbyn. He was a master of his brief. He chaired the meeting to perfection. He knew the nuances of Joint Enterprise and was so impressive. That is not the public impression of him. And where has that come from? I think they are terrified of him.

Theresa May

I’ve never met her, but the one thing I will say about her is that some members of the Hillsborough Family Support Group have tremendous respect for her. She did a lot to help. Certainly more than Jack Straw ever did.

Bless this Scouse

Up in Liverpool, we are blessed with good priests. It’s no coincidence. It would be crazy to send some rarefied priest into an area that has many social problems. You need earthy people, of this world, who have muscularity and who will get stuck in to social problems. Make sure their bellies are full first, if you can. Only then can you talk about other things like prayer and God’s love.

Sean Bean in Broken
Sean Bean as Father Michael Kerrigan in Broken

#ActivistArmy

There are huge issues around poverty. It is a massive question, but I would pick on a very small thing. There is a need to act on fixed-odds betting terminals in poverty-stricken areas. That is not going to cure poverty. It won’t help all the millions who need help. But it will help hundreds of people, maybe thousands. There is no economic argument for those machines at all. Those machines are fixed to make sure you lose. They are immoral. They should not be on our high streets.

Rochenda Sandall in Broken
Rochenda Sandall in Broken

Home comforts?

As I get more comfortable it is harder to write about poverty. But I still inhabit the same world. I’m the fifth of nine and thank God we are all still alive. But most of that nine are skint. Well, they are certainly not comfortable. We go to the same pubs we have always gone to. I haven’t left that world behind but I am insulated from the problems of it.

Libraries give us power

I had a poor education in a Catholic grammar school. But I started devouring American 20th-century fiction, which was only available in the public library. I read all of Hemingway, Steinbeck, every great American novel, in those libraries. So I have always supported libraries. And I used to do literacy and writings workshops in prisons. It is crucial. There is less and less education now. Everyone says you can judge a society by the way it treats its prisoners. We are terrible here.

Storytelling

You don’t write to see your name on the telly or to be well paid. You have to need to write – and that is about whatever fires you. For me, stories of injustice and poverty fire me up. If they didn’t, I simply wouldn’t tell them. So it’s not as altruistic as it might seem.

You don’t write to see your name on the telly or to be well paid. You have to need to write

Austerity

I was in the Liver Vaults, a great old-fashioned pub in Liverpool after the 2008 economic crash. I had a few bob stashed away and was devastated because my pension had taken a hit. When I looked around at the plumbers and bricklayers – the financial crisis did not touch the average working person at all. But over the years it has been made to touch them. They didn’t have pensions for the value to go down, or stocks and shares. So the government rushed to bail out shareholders and banks, then austerity kicked in and working class people – who were untouched in 2008 – are now paying through the nose for it through all these years of austerity. Isn’t that funny?

Broken is on Tuesdays, BBC One, 9pm

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