On a couple of occasions, there were a number of things which were irritiating about the Tower Block of Commons programmes, however, rather than appear churlish, I dealt with a couple of things and let the others slide.
Tim and I were both made aware sometime ago, that the Liberal Democrat, Mark Oaten, had been paid £1,800 in ‘filming fees’. This was a shock, however, it got worse and last night we discovered via a journalist, that he had in fact been paid £3,600.
We believe that he asked for the initial £1,800 to take part and then another £1,800 for the day we spent filming in Westminster.
Tim and I would never have dreamt of asking for fees. The point of the programme was to get under the skin of our broken society and experience how others coped, to have asked for money would have been wholly inappropriate.
Taking part in the programme actually cost me personally £400, a cost I was not reimbursed for. As many know, I bought Christmas presents for the children, presents and flowers for my elderly lady, Ruthie, and I stocked the food cupboard of the boys I stayed with. I also had to incur ‘child care’ costs at home. As a single mum leaving my daughter for a period of time came at a cost and yet still, asking for money never crossed my mind.It was all part of the experience.
Tim and I wrote to the production company a few weeks ago and asked to be paid £1,800 each (what we thought Mark had been paid) and for the money to be divided half each to a charity in our constituencies and a charity on the estate we filmed on.
We will now be writing on Monday to ask for that amount to be upped to £3,600.
The second point was that we MPs never had to ‘live on benefits’. The ‘voice over’ stating that we did at the beginning of each programme was totally wrong, a point I raised with the Channel 4 lawyer. It was against OffCom guidelines to state the programme did something it didn’t and the voice over was dropped from programme 4.But that doesn’t really matter, the impression had already been created that we were attempting to live on benefits.
Even the Liberal Democrat who allegedly asked for £3,600 didn’t have to do that. Shame on him. He was paid almost £1,000 per episode to cry and emote whilst living in the home of someone who lived on £150 per week.