Tower Block of Commons is a four-episode reality TV series in the UK that features five Members of Parliament (MP) who have agreed to live for eight days in British housing projects, or, as they're called across the pond, "tower block estates." Each MP was given £64.30 (appx $100 USD) to cover their expenses for the week. (The amount is the average weekly allowance provided to a job seeker receiving public assistance.) The point of the experiment was to pull the privileged MPs out of their posh lifestyle bubble and sensitize them to the struggles of working class people. But (surprise!) less than 24-hours into the experiment, one of them was caught cheating.
On the first night in her temporary West London home, a small flat in South Action estate that houses out-of-work sisters Rena and Renisha Spaine and their combined eight children, ultra-conservative MP Nadine Dorries (Britain's own Sarah Palin) was caught on film pulling a £50 note out of her bra. He dodgy claim is that she removed the cash in order to come clean and had intended to use the money to buy gifts for her host family's children, not spend it on herself.
She writes on her blog, "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. Aware I was staying with children, and it being two weeks before Christmas, I wasn't going to leave my family without leaving some Christmas presents behind for the children, so I popped £50 where any self respecting female who knows how to get what she wants would - down my top."
Sisters Rena and Renisha were upset with Dorries' flagrant disregard for the rules of the show, and initially wanted to kick her out of the apartment. (According to The Mirror, Rena Tweeted, "South Acton hates Nadine Dorries. Get her off the estate.") Instead, Rena tried to explain to Dorries why she found her actions so offensive, "You hid money in your bra. Do you think when our benefits are gone we can just go into our bra and pull out 50 quid? It's cheating. I feel none of you MPs are being 100 percent honest with us."
The oblivious politician, who apparently grew up on on a council estate herself, responds by telling Rena and Renisha that "life on a council estate is markedly better than it was when I was growing up." According to Dorries, having consumer products like mobile phones and public benefits tempers the effects of living below the poverty line in a crime-ridden housing project. She then has the audacity to complain to the sisters about how difficult it is to get by on a politician's salary: "If you had your salary and you had to spend four nights of that living in London and then had to go to my constituency, and then the fact that every meal you have you have to buy at a café or restaurant, you'd have no money left at the end of the month."
You just can't make this stuff up.
So what had MP Dorries learned at the end of her eight days? "This project was incredibly important for me as it literally opened one door after another and let me step into the lives of people with whom I would never otherwise meet; people who, as a result of a target driven culture, languish at the bottom of society. Forgotten people, people who provide no political brownie points for any politician, but who are possibly the most costly within society to support in all ways one can imagine. It is with these people that repairing the broken society should begin."
Is anyone really buying this swan song?