Roadkill is the political series of the season on the BBC. The narrative is built on the wake of the House of Cards of the nineties, but without the Shakespearean histrionics and the overdose of cynicism of the original model. In fact, Roadkill is one of the few political series that encourages real political reflection.
The novelty of the series is that, in an elegant way, it shows the needlessness of those conspiracies so liked by Anglo-Saxon screenwriters. The main character is a Neothatcherite minister with remarkable similarities to Boris Johnson. Significantly, he is an outsider, that is to say, he did not go to university… and for all that matters it would have been the same had he attended any normal university. University, for the purpose of joining the elite of the British political apparatus, goes little beyond Oxford and Cambridge.
In this, Britain, the oldest capitalism and rooted in the structures of the previous ruling classes, is more rigid than most other countries. But in general, and this can be seen in the series, the bourgeoisie needs a certain educational matrix. In the United States this is the product of the Ivy League. In France it is what the Grandes Écoles offered. In Spain it is what ESADE, the Instituto de Empresa and some other business schools sell. The doctrine they teach and the degree of knowledge they transmit to the cubs of the leading class is as irrelevant as the number of scholarship holders and blood renewals they incorporate to the student body. The important thing is that they create a basis for personal relationships and a common sensitivity at the zero point of every managerial and political career.
The oxbridgean who speaks from a distance about anything, no matter how intimate, or the Spanish manager with his overwhelming lack of cultural and scientific references, are not only united by a common educational base, they share the same scarcity of daily information sources – always the same – and inhabit social circles that are extraordinarily homogeneous and very entangled among themselves. Thus, a certain human type is formed, capable of spontaneously synchronizing with its peers without the need for major efforts. Whether in order to guess what others are going to do in the speculative market – the so-called market consensus – or to build political positions – the country project . Anyone who, like Johnson, goes a little further in his interests, becomes considered an eccentric and bears the responsibility of aligning himself so as not to be excluded. The classic type of the Spanish bourgeois, with few personal passions and even less intellectual curiosity, is perfectly functional: the narrower the intellectual and emotional world of the individual bourgeois, the more easily the collective bourgeois will synchronize.
To all this education and organization for automatism, which is at the very origins of the bourgeoisie as a class in state capitalism, a series of explicit and conscious structures are added which reaffirm the homogeneity of perspectives within each particular bourgeoisie and among them within the imperialist game. In the Roadkill series, this apparatus plays a leading role in the plot through the association of British armament companies, which, besides having direct access to the prime minister, the party leader and the entire cabinet, organizes and finances a think tank in Washington to guide the convergence of interests between capitals on both sides of the Atlantic.
The moment when the director of the association of military industries reminds the prime minister that Great Britain is armaments and pharmaceuticals and the president replies and financial services is priceless. Above all because the complementary argument is that arms create 200,000 direct and indirect jobs – always overstated – and it is not hard to guess that together, the three favorite industries of British big capital hardly exceed half a million jobs… in a country of over 80 million people. But… there is a reason why this is called capitalism.
What is interesting politically is that the series abandons the easy recourse to conspiracy. The central character tries to hide the fact that he participated – together with the prime minister – in a seminar in Washington to advise US capitals on how to introduce themselves and plant the seeds of privatization in the NHS. Something very similar, by the way, to the meetings in which Johnson participated in the USA. But unlike the crude plot in House of Cards in any of its versions, the plot in Roadkill has nothing to do with the death of the journalist investigating it, nor with the owner of the newspaper -in which the deceased worked- intervening to prevent a second wave of accusations from being made public. It is organic. In most cases no one needs to rig anything.
The think tanks, the thought organizations, etc. exist for something else: to affirm and reinforce consensus and strategic orientations as a class. Especially in times of serious crisis. We have been seeing this these months. Never before have there been so many congresses and events of large companies and high managers. Even the government organizes its own. And always the same people go… who in turn have special preaching in other sector forums and in a thousand social and business meetings that are part of their routine agenda. So it is not automatic, mechanical, but it is organic: the homogeneity of the ruling class itself, the close ties between the high bureaucracy of the state, the corporate bourgeoisie and the high national political leaders guarantee the formation of a consensus expressing and aggregating the needs of the different components of national capital and its most important applications (enterprises). And all in a relatively short time. It is not so difficult! The Spanish bourgeoisie numbers about 60,000 households in the most generous of approximations. No conspiracy is necessary… usually.
A closing detail which is also very interesting. The family and emotional life of the protagonist is practically devoid of structure. The affective relationships of all the characters are compulsive, in most cases instrumental. And yet, the main character discovers and is confronted with a new relationship that makes him, without the need to say it, imagine alternative paths in his own trajectory. Through that imagination that the plot hints at, he discovers himself in the other, he develops a flash of authentic empathy. All told very elegantly, of course, in the best BBC Victorian tradition.
Thus, what finally catapults him as a leader is knowing how to direct that moment of empathy, which he finds uncomfortable, toward his political interests. This is very well seen and even better treated by screenwriters. In the face of the sentimental and moral tribulations of the characters representing the petty bourgeoisie -including his daughters- the protagonist is, like all the characters of his class, a moral benthamite, a utilitarian, an openly malthusian one, that is, a sociopath by education and ideological choice. And he is so by real necessity of the governmental function of a class whose interests, at this point in history, can only be antisocial. The writers are to be credited with reflecting this without representing unnecessary cruelties and gruesome crimes. When our ruling class imposes hundreds of deaths a day in order to save the economy, that is, the profitability of its investments, any individual and elaborate murder, in the style of House of Cards, would have been ridiculous and tiny, too distant from the real scales to serve even as a moralizing tale.