South Acton 'Tower Block of Commons'
MP Nadine Dorries lived locally to film documentary last year
On Monday night, television viewers will have a sort of insight into what it is like living on the South Acton Estate in the second episode of the Channel 4 documentary Tower Block of Commons.
The first episode followed Tories Iain Duncan Smith, Tim Loughton, Labour veteran Austin Mitchell and Liberal Democrat Mark Oaten as they struggled (some more than others) to live on benefits and get a 'real' insight into how low-income families cope day-to-day. Iain Duncan Smith wasn't able to continue after Episode 1 as he received the news that his wife had cancer. He was replaced by Nadine Dorries who was sent to live with a family on the South Acton Estate.
Yesterday, Ms Dorries, the Tory MP for mid-Bedfordshire, was exposed as being under investigation for having paid £35,000 of public money in less than a year to a close friend who works in public relations. She is already under investigation by John Lyons, the parliamentary sleaze watchdog, over her use of the second home allowance to rent a constituency home in Woburn, Beds. She called the MPs' expenses investigation a "witch hunt".
However, during tomorrow's episode of the documentary it is revealed that she kept a more modest sum aside in her bra as "having been well brought up there was no way I was going to stay in someone’s flat for two nights and not leave a gift behind when I left."
On her blog, she says that the mum whose flat she stayed in "was one of the loveliest ladies you could meet" and chirrups: "I am hoping they [the two adults and eight children she stayed with] will be able to come and spend some time with me over the summer."
The programme shows how Ms Dorries survived on £64.30, which is the amount those on the job-seeker's allowance receive, over a week. She says on her blog: "I can guarantee that anyone who watches will be shocked within the first minute," and that "If I had seen the first minute of footage before I began, there is a strong possibility that I may have turned on my heel and headed back to the arms of those who love me best of all."
While Ms Dorries may have broken the rules stuffing money down her bra, Austin Mitchell is reported to scoff at the idea of living on benefits, saying: "I'm not making any attempt to live on that. I think it's silly."
The documentary was filmed two weeks before Christmas last year. Episode 2 will be screened tomorrow night on Channel 4.
February 7, 2010