Having once named Hull as the worst place to live in the UK, Channel 4 has sent Grimsby MP Austin Mitchell to spend a week on a grim council estate to see what effect it has on his view of poverty, social exclusion et cetera. Three other MPs will patronise three more council estates around the country.
I spent year living in a tower block on Salford Precinct that would quite easily qualify for this sort of nonsense. It was in quite a poor state – wallpaper coming off the walls, damp, graffiti – so poor it was demolished within months of my leaving. In the summer, you could look down and watch kids set fire to low rises, brick the fire fighters and then get chased by police in clumsy riot gear. In the day the police would return with footballs and try to get all matey with the scallies. But best of all, it was very, very cheap and as a student I knew I’d be gone really soon.
As a child, about nine-years-old, I went through a phase of nagging my mum about moving into a high-rise tower block. It looked really cool. Then I befriended a boy who really did live in that tower block. Eventually, an invite came. I didn’t mind the graffiti, but one of the lifts was broken and someone had defecated in the other. His flat was a tip. His mother, who didn’t work, clearly hadn’t cleaned in some time and litter – crisp, cigarette packets et cetera – were just brushed under the settee.
My friend was terribly embarrassed. He wasn’t just visiting. This was his life.
And this is why documentaries like this are an insult to people who really are on the breadline. Anyone can slum it for a week or a year when they know it’s only temporary.