Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Not watching TV or being on it either

Nadine Dorries tweeted yesterday that she'll be taking part in a TV programme in December, spending a week living with a family on a housing estate. I think several MPs are doing it. I'm hoping Nadine ends up staying on the Marsh Farm estate in Luton, which borders her constituency and has a certain notoriety. (There were riots there, a long time ago now, but it's like St Pauls in Bristol; people who don't know Bristol always ask me if I represent St Pauls, even though the riots were nearly 30 years ago! April 1980..)

I was asked to do the programme too, but turned it down. Partly because the idea of being followed by TV cameras for a week doing anything is pretty close to my idea of hell; partly because such things nearly always turn out to be stitch-ups (look at the MP demanding these poverty-stricken people feed her poncey, pricey vegan food!); and partly because the whole premise of the show seemed to be that MPs need to be taught what life is like on a council estate. OK, I obviously don't live on one, and outside observation is perhaps no substitute for real-life experience, but I like to think I'm in touch enough with my constituents, and with family and friends too, to have some idea.

Also of course, it's questionable whether spending a week with a family under the glare of the TV spotlight is the 'real deal'. It's like those frequent pieces where someone tries to live on Job Seekers Allowance for a week. (See Liz Jones' recent piece in the Mail for a particularly ludicrous example; she had to stop feeding her 17 cats on fresh cod. And for a much better, properly researched piece, see Polly Toynbee's "Hard Work: Life in Low Pay Britain".) Living on a very limited income is difficult, but the real pressures come over time, for example when the washing machine breaks and you can't afford to replace it, or when you're burgled and haven't got house insurance, or the car fails its MOT. Or even when you have a month with a few birthdays in it.

Anyway, I will be watching the TV programme with interest. If I can get my telly working by then. I was also asked a couple of weeks ago if I was interested in taking part in a show on December 3rd, with Frank Skinner and a couple of other comedians... something to do with voter participation and democratic engagement. But I ummed and aahed because that's the night of the staff/interns/former interns Christmas party, and by the time I got round to asking them what time it would be filmed, they'd crossed me off the list. I might have had a narrow escape.

9 comments:

bryonyvictoria said...

Nice post and glad you turned it down :) It sounds like some awful self-indulgent exercise to me and as you say living with TV cameras 24/7 isn't reality at all. Also, find it slightly insulting to people who live on council estates, it all seems a bit patronising. I feel sorry for the family who get Nadine "I know all about paupers dontchaknow" Dorries with them for a week.

The Provisional BBC said...

This "spend a month on a housing estate" idea is incredibly patronising and only reinforces the idea that all housing estates (and particularly council estates) are sewers. Most are perfectly nice places to live and we need to stop this stigmatising of the people who live there.

Also, I can think of at least one MP who lives in a council house on a council estates himself. (I'm sure there are more, but I don't keep myself up-to-date with most MPs' living arrangements.) Perhaps he should volunteer to live in his own house for a month!

Kerry said...

I've since been told that the MPs will be staying in a tower block in Hull, which has no doubt been chosen because it conforms to stereotype. Wonder if Nadine leaves her £6000 diamond earrings at home? http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2007/mar/16/fashion.catwalk

bristolwestpaul said...

surely as a Labour MP from a background of limited means you should spend a week living with a minor Royal or a wealthy business person

Kerry said...

That's true... I could spend a week living with the Camerons.

bryonyvictoria said...

Could you stand it though? :P

Bristol Dave said...

I'm not sure how you can hold that insufferable Toynbee up as some sort of shining example of journalism knowledge when it comes to low paid Britain?

She truly is the textbook definition of a champagne socialist. And she's a ghastly hypocrite at that, too.

Steven_L said...

Come to Broomhill for a week! We don't do very much, I tend to surf the net, watch DVD's get drunk while my flatmates hog the only TV with Sky playing that new shoot-em-up computer game.

I could harp on at you about the smoking ban, while I'm sure they would let you have a go on the Playstation.

Kerry said...

Confession time... I've never been on a Playstation. Next time I'm in the neighbourhood I will pop in for a lesson.