I had an easy decision to make yesterday. I was offered another one of those reality style TV opportunities. I sent back a rapid “No”.
This one was a bit more imaginative. They wanted me to spend a week living on a Council estate so I could “experience the everyday lives and issues of the ordinary people who live there”. It would according to the well paid tv staff help me understand the problem of poverty. How real would that be? I would still have my home to go back to at the end of the week , and my salary cheque going into my bank. If one of my colleague does it whilst also claiming the second home allowance it could prove quite exciting for them as they juggle their three homes. I can imagine the ribbing they will get on the estate.
I understand poverty. I remember having little money, and remember what I did to make sure I didn’t have to live on out of work benefits or a low wage. I resent the idea that because MPs earn more than the national average it makes it impossible for us to understand what is wrong with poverty, or what needs to be done for people to get out of poverty.
The programme makers said that it would “begin to heal the pereceived gulf between politicians and the public”. I don’t think so. These reality shows usually set you up. They don’t want you to succeed or come over well, and they control the shots and the editing.
I only investigated one seriously before rejecting it. I was told they wanted me to run a fish and chip shop while the owner had a holiday. I thought about it, and agreed to the preliminary discussion. When I said I would use the presence of the TV to launch a marketing campaign, to swell the numbers using the shop they seemed a little worried. When I went on to say I would hire an extra staff member to handle the extra business, and give the existing staff a profit share as I expected a bumper week with the cameras around they said I would not be able to do that. I think they wanted a script where I was to fall out with the staff, not one where I would motivate them and help them earn a better paypacket.
From that discussion onwards I have found it very easy just to say “No”. The problem with reality shows is they can be so unreal and so highly scripted. Instead I wrote about banks for a couple of newspapers.