DESPITE representing Grimsby, Labour MP Austin Mitchell is well known to council tenants in north London for standing up to his own government on housing, specifically the policy throughout the Noughties of stubbornly refusing investment to local authorities who did not want to go along with privatisation ideas. Some called it blackmail and Camden has been one of the worst victims.
But Austin must be realising he has lost a bit of cred on the estates by his participation in Tower Block Of Commons, the Channel 4 series where MPs pretend to live like council tenants for a week. While Mark Oaten (Lib Dem) and Tim Loughton (Conservative) have somehow managed to escape this obvious you’re-going-to-look-silly trap – albeit with a bit of blubbing and an awful attempt at rapping, like the young kids do – Austin looks like the big loser.
The narrator, struggling to be heard over the whimsical trobone background music (it’s not The Apprentice), told us from the off that Austin hasn’t agreed to all the rules about actually staying with tenants in their homes. No kipping on sofas for him. And from then on it’s got worse and worse, with cuts of him looking a little lost confused. He didn’t know the cost of a pint of milk and then said shopping was women’s work anywhere. The scene cut before we could see if he followed that clever remark it with a wink and a of-course-I-don’t-mean-it grin.
This morning, Austin, like a reality TV contestant shocked to get boos from the morons who stand outside the Big Brother house, said it was all in the editing. It was the production company’s fault, he spluttered Channel 4 is a disgrace, he splutterd some more. They were out to humiliate us.
It’s true the makers of Tower Block of Commons didn’t need to make men who normally wear suits wear hoodies and pink polo shirts. That was patronising to both council tenants and the MPs who took part. And who knows maybe some of Austin’s best bits got left on the cutting room floor. He’s definitely right on one thing: “I should have turned them down. All the smarter Labour MPs did.”