Last night, having recorded it on Sky+, the first episode of the Channel 4 series, Tower Block of Commons, where a number of MPs get sent to mystery council estates and have to live with ordinary people and I have to admit I wasn;t particularly disappointed. There was something rather amusing - in a funny peculiar not funny haha way - to see the look on Austin Mitchell's face as he was led to what he thought was a newsagents but was in fact a methadone dispensary as his host was a recovering smackhead.
The look of shock and then depression on his face that such places actually existed in the back arse end of a run down council hell hole was enlightening. Even he had to admit he'd thought that drugs as an issue was overstated by the media, and here he was surrounded by random syringes on the floor, an all too common sight on an estate of this sort. Likewise, Mark Oaten's reaction to seeing the squalor of a council estate in Essex, leading to him getting a petition going (natch!) was a great illustration of how sheltered a life some MPs actually live.
It's a shame that Iain Duncan-Smith had to pull out of the series because his wife fell ill with cancer, as of all the MPs featured, he seemed like the one that took it most in his stride and didn't appear necessarily shocked by how some people were having to live, and simply expressed how he would like to change it and make it better (no surprise really given his work in this area).
One thing that did stand-out though was Austin Mitchell's refusal to do the moving in with a family part and instead insist on only taking part if his wife could come along and they could have a council flat of their own. There were scenes of them sitting around reading all their daily newspapers, playing on a laptops and using his mobile phone, whilst the Tory and Lib Dem participants had their wallets and phones taken away. Mitchell and his wife even drive off to a friend's nice house for dinner one night.
Most hilariously was Mark Oaten not knowing how to correctly fill out a lottery ticket and then proceeding to get four numbers when he finally filled it out properly - much to the annoyance of his host who had never won more than a tenner in years of playing every week.