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.

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