Monday, February 22, 2010

Tower Block of Commons: I Was Wrong

Over the last three weeks I have tweeted rather disparaging things about the MPs involved in the Tower Block of Commons. I thought it was a ludicrous programme, deliberately designed to make politicians look stupid and out of touch. Indeed, I suggested to my partner that if I ever showed any sign of considering taking part in such a programme, I should be shot.

Tonight, Channel 4 broadcast the final of the four programmes. It was a revelation. It showed all four MPs as human beings, able to relate to the people they were staying with and all trying to help their new acquaintances live a better life.

Mark Oaten tried to galvanise a community in Dagenham into pressuring the council to improve their living conditions. Austin Mitchell tried to save a local youth centre and Tim Loughton brought together a local community in Birmingham in a way they had never experienced before. And Nadine Dorries made a real difference to the life of a 20 year old mixed race guy who admitted he had been lost to cannabis. There were some truly touching moments.

The test is whether these four MPs maintain contact with their new found friends. I have every confidence that three of them will. They really made a difference, and that is the true test of any politician's actions.

I never thought I would say this after watching the first three programmes, but I am proud of those MPs. They took a real risk in taking part in this programme, but by and large it paid off.


john in cheshire said...

Iain, I think you are a lost cause. Get a grip, for goodness' sake.

Iain Dale said...

You either didn't watch ir or you don't have a heart. Or both.

Kenny said...

"The test is whether these four MPs maintain contact with their new found friends. I have every confidence that three of them will."

I don't think I really need to ask this, but who is the one that will not? Could it be the same one that went into it half-cocked and never really showed much enthusiasm for the whole venture?

Anoneumouse said...

I Guess Ken Clarke's secret visit with Jose Barroso today was to negotiate the sequel . The "EU Bidonvilles"

Or was he was doing an Oaten on Barroso's coffee table?

Richard said...

Oh aye, Iain, is that why Naddine Dorries was fishing 50 quid notes out of her bra, so determined was she to live on the income of poor!

Andy JS said...

I enjoyed the series and thought the MPs came across quite well as you say.

I do have one problem with this sort of programme however, which is this: it's as if we should all be extremely surprised that the average MP should be able to get along with people living on London council estates, because surely aren't a lot of MPs representative of all those white, straight, middle-class, middle-aged people who live in the shire counties who would never in a million years hug a black person, for example?

That sometimes feels like the underlying implication in a programme like this, and I find it rather offensive because most ordinary people of the kind I just described are not bad or evil people in the way that a lot of left-wing media types in London think they are.

Iain Dale said...

She had taken a £50 quid note to buy Xmas presents for the kids in the flat. What a wicked thing for her to do, eh?

Cogito Dexter said...

Tim Loughton and Nadine Dorries came over incredibly well. All the 'public' participants were very interesting and the whole thing will be an eye-opened for many middle class people, comfy in their own homes and twitching curtains every time someone in a hoody walks past.

Long ago I learned the lesson that every person has their own story and appearances are almost always deceptive. The people the MPs stayed with discovered that about the MPs but also I think the viewers who watch these sorts of programmes, supposedly 'safe' in their preconceptions will discover the point about the rest of the world too.

It might have looked like a stunt at the beginning, but the programme ended up as having a genuine stab at public service broadcasting.

I was impressed.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Sorry to join the ranks of the uncaring, but this is telly, not real life. These folks were followed around by directors, make-up girls, assistants, cameramen, sound men and Winnebagos. Of course they created some interest. Interest in a glamourous life that most of the real people in it can only gawp at.

I really do not think it would be a good idea for you to do one of these. You would no doubt do ok, but a gentleman has to maintain some aura of mystery. Watching you producing fivers from your pants would not work for me.

James Chard said...

It was an interesting programme as you say. Austin Mitchell fell in my estimation overall (though improved a bit in the final show) while the other three rose.

I think people are being a bit overly cynical here. All four were good sorts in one way or another - they did care about the people they met - although Mitchell had been in the game too long.

Andy JS said...

The point I was trying to make is that a programme like this is supposed to make us sit up and think: "That's surprising, I didn't expect the average MP to be able to be so normal and human", when actually I think most MPs wouldn't have a problem being friendly with people in the same way that the 4 MPs in the programme were.

Praguetory said...

I'm not denigrating any of the 4 but because people in sink estates have been so poorly served and their expectations of politicians are so low, it is actually relatively easy to make a difference to their lives.

kris said...

I watched all the episodes - and agree they all (eventually) redeemed themselves.

Nadine, bless her, is bats. I agree she was fantastic to the kid in the last episode - and I believe she genuinely cares.

But what on EARTH was she doing in her hijab? (Best bit: are you a muslim now? No, I'm a MP.)AS I have already indicated direct to Nadine, I would never dream of asking a Somali lady to dress like me, so why the obligation for Nadine to "accomodate?"

I'm afraid that made me somewhat cynically wonder if she was going to "blacken up" for the benefit of the last episode teen-agers.

Love her, but sorry, she's a bit of a moron.

Jonathan Sheppard said...

I wonder what the MPs who are supposed the represent the areas filmed feel? Why do their own constituents feel so detached from the political process. Havent the local MPs and councils have alot to answer for??

Quentin said...

Suggest you look at the local rag from a couple of weeks ago (Beds Times and Citizen) where Nadine was once again threatening to sue because the first people she stayed with rumaged through her handbag and accused her of trying to flog them drugs. The paper then goes into detail about the prescription drugs in her handbag.
If Nadine wants to play in this drug addicts' playground, she shouldn't be surprised when they include her in their games.
Even Brown can seem kind and caring when he knows the camera are on him. I suppose TBOC demonstrated both ends of the spectrum of taxpayer funded livelyhoods.