Oaten reduced to tears in new Channel 4 documentary

The Sun reports today, with unsubtle snideness, on a new Channel 4 documentary, Tower Block Of Commons, in which ‘four pampered MPs were reduced to tears and tantrums when they swapped their grace and favour lifestyles for eight days living on a council estate.’

One of the MPs who took part is Lib Dem MP Mark Oaten, who is standing down at the next election. Here’s how the paper reports his experience:

In the first of the four-part series, the programme begins with Winchester MP Mark Oaten cleaning out his pool at his Hampshire pile and musing about what life on a council estate might be like.

He says: “I’m apprehensive. I think I’m going to have to eat lots of McDonald’s and watch Coronation Street. I don’t know what is going to be thrown at me so I am a bit nervous.”

As his car pulls up in the notorious Goresbrook Village in Dagenham, Essex, he gasps: “I’m hoping I’m not in a tower block. It is a bloody tower block.”

Staring up at Dunmow House on the looming estate he says: “It’s like when you turn up to the outskirts of Moscow. It feels like an old communist blocks.”

Oaten is invited to sleep on the couch in the living room of 43-year-old single mum Cathy, who has polished the floor specially for his arrival.

She says: “He’s got his own cook, a big house with a swimming pool. His life is just luxury. He hasn’t got to worry about where his next penny is coming from.

“My kids have never had a garden. The park is full of glass. Youths hang around smoking cannabis and drinking. It’s so boring here sometimes you might as well just sleep, or drink tea and smoke fags.”

When she advises Oaten to change into a tracksuit because he will get “egged” in his suit, he is aghast. “What’s egged? Eggs. Surely not?” he gasps.

Oaten resigned as the Lib Dem’s home affairs spokesman in 2006 following revelations he had three-in-a-bed sex sessions with two male prostitutes.

It’s not long before shamed Oaten is confronted by locals. One brazen youth shouts: “Ain’t you the one that got done for the rent boys? Oaten tries to retreat, but the youth shouts after him: “You’ve got Aids.”

In an extraordinary scene, tearful Oaten then lies face down on the grass outside the block.

Watching from her window, Cathy says: “One day he’s been in here and he’s like that. Look at him. I’ve been here ten years and he can’t take it. I’ve got his stuff, his wallet. If I didn’t he’d be off. I’m telling you he’d be on that train and straight home. My God. What is he gonna be like at the end of the week? He’s gonna want a noose.”

After a disturbed night listening to the busy A13 and Cathy’s hamster, Oaten realises he’s not cut out for this lifestyle. He admits: “If someone said to me, ‘You have to stay here for a week, a month, a year’ I don’t think I could cope.”

Will Mark Oaten’s appearance prove excruciating? Or will it show him responding honestly to an unfamiliar situation? If you want to find out, tune in to Channel 4 at 9pm on Monday, 1st February.

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  • This is obviously going to be a vehicle for MPs to be ridiculed even further.

    I don’t like it. It doesn’t bode well that the only two MPs who I know are taking part, Mark Oaten and Nadine Dorries, are both ridiculous narcissists.

  • Andrew Suffield 26th Jan '10 - 11:13pm

    Not that the lack of a working solution is going to stop people from throwing money at non-solutions (most of which ends up in the hands of private industry).

  • I seem to recall that there is rather a large council estate in Oaten’s old ward in Watford. Didn’t he run a campaign against glue-sniffing back in those days (copying what Mick Wilkes had been doing in Birmingham)? There are also council estates in Winchester, though maybe Mark doesn’t visit them too often. Feigning unfamiliarity with the lifestyle won’t wash. Back to the therapy couch, Mark.

  • “He says: “I’m apprehensive. I think I’m going to have to eat lots of McDonald’s and watch Coronation Street.”

    He really is a t*t isn’t he.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 27th Jan '10 - 12:09am

    Can Mark Oaten not just retreat gracefully and spare us any more of this?

    Personally, I feel I just don’t want to know any more about Mark Oaten lying face downwards in the grass in East London, or about what he got up to with Cathy’s hamster.

    Can’t the bloke just disappear and give us all a break?

  • When she advises Oaten to change into a tracksuit because he will get “egged” in his suit, he is aghast. “What’s egged? Eggs. Surely not?” he gasps.”

    For goodness sakes, one doesn’t have to grow up on a council estate to know what being egged means, or to know that unpleasant things happen on certain council estates.

  • What a complete numpty!

    I’d like to see him survive on my street for a week he’d be having babies, there is regular pitched battles with swords and the police dont do anything until its to late. Yuo Libs make me crack!

  • Foregone Conclusion 27th Jan '10 - 12:36am

    I sincerely hope this is an act, for reasons only known to himself:

    (1) He SHOULD know that Channel 4 would place him in a rotten hell-hole of a sink estate. It’s sort of the whole purpose of the programme.

    (2) He SHOULD know that many people, including no doubt some of his constituents, live in environments like this. OK, so perhaps Winchester isn’t big on tower blocks, but he’s been an MP for nigh on 12 years and he should know from casework the kind of stick ordinary people have to put up with.

    (3) He SHOULD know not to be completely patronising. McDonalds and Coronation Street? Do they not have these strange things in the leafy shires?

    (4) He SHOULD know about the conditions of the urban working class for a couple of reasons. Firstly, if he’s done any campaigning at all in any city whatsoever, ever. Secondly, because he was Shadow Home Secretary for three years. And no doubt said a thing or two about anti-social behaviour and crime. Or did I dream that? Seriously, the fact that we had a Home Affairs spokesman who isn’t altogether sure what egging is makes me despair.

    (5) He SHOULD wait until shortly after the election, when the narrator can tell viewers, ‘Mark Oaten, disgraced ex-Liberal Democrat MP…’ Then he won’t contaminate us, and the public might even credit us with some sense for no longer being attached to him. Not that we deserve it.

    People give Lembit Opik a lot of stick for his self-publicising nature, but he’s doing it at least partly out of a genuine sense of mission, no matter how misguided. Oaten seems to be doing it completely for his own self interest. I’m sorry to speak like this about a sitting Lib Dem Member of Parliament, but the fact is that he won’t be for much longer and he’s bringing the party and politics in general into disrepute.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 27th Jan '10 - 1:18am

    Frankly the bit I find hardest to believe is that any of the local ne’er-do-wells would have even heard of Mark Oaten, let alone been able to recognise him in the street. If that wasn’t his own invention, I’ll bet they were put up to it by the film makers!

  • Blimey.I’ve slept on a sofa in a council flat(in Wigan) and I watched Coranation Street when it was first on the telly!
    Can I become an MP?

  • oops Coronation!!!
    (I don’t want you to fink I am a working class person oow can’t spel)

  • Sometimes I wonder whether our PPC approval process should contain the question, “Have you ever harboured ambitions of becoming a Z-list celebrity?”

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Jan '10 - 9:57am

    Why is it that we make a big thing about having MPs whose race and gender matches that of our country, but not MPs whose social background matches it? People will be left here with the impression that Oaten’s background is typical of all Liberal Democrat MPs, which I really hope it isn’t. But how many MPs do we have for whom what Oaten experienced for eight days is no big thing because that’s how they spent a significant proportion of their lives? If the answer is “none” we should be as ashamed of that as we are for having no non–white ethnic minority MPs.

  • This is a report in THE SUN for Christ’s sake – can people please watch the programme itself before criticising Mark.

  • Is this the same Goresbrook that Richard Barnbrook represents? Is he going to appear?

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Jan '10 - 1:13pm

    This is a report in THE SUN for Christ’s sake – can people please watch the programme itself before criticising Mark

    It is a report in “THE Sun” (to give it the capitalisation it uses), yes. The SUN is a very widely read newspaper. It is therefore very influential on the electorate. In this respect it is probably the most politically influential publication in Britain because not only does it have the widest readership, it is also oriented towards swing voters. It has carefully cultivated the image of being just a bit of fun with no political bias, but it is actually carefully cultivated to drip-feed propaganda to the British people. The cleverness of its propaganda action is shown by the way many of its readers think of it as a “Labour paper” even when it’s saying “Vote Tory”. If you’re a person whose inclination is to vote Labour but a publication you suppose also has that basic inclination is saying “vote Tory” you’re going to to take that advice much more readily than if you always supposed it was a Tory propaganda sheet anyway, aren’t you?

    So our getting it right in THE Sun, and making quite sure we don’t do anything stupid which would give them the opportunity to misreport us is crucial. If there’s one consistent message in THE Sun, it’s that it hates us and everything we stand for. Mostly, like the Labour and Conservative Parties, it expresses that hatred by ignoring us. But once in a while – almost always when some LibDem does or says something silly – it reports on us. That is all readers of THE Sun know about us, unless we work hard on their doorsteps – we are a tiny party which does nothing except saying or doing a few very silly things.

  • David – I presume a formal complaint was made?

    On Mr Oaten, I realise that he’s got a family to provide for (and it is a pity that he temporarily forgot that he had a family) but I do wish he’d have some respect for the party.

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Jan '10 - 5:39pm

    By the way, I hadn’t seen a picture of Oaten recently. I think the bald close-shaven beard rather suits him (OK, I also have a beard which is close shaven and though I’m not yet as half as Oaten I’m moving that way). Seriously, I think he looks better that way than he did, so what was all that fuss he made about going bald?

  • If the quote from THE Sun about local youths confronting him about rent boys is true (and the point I was making earlier is that THE Sun is produced by lying scum who will twist or invent anything that suits their evil purposes) then Mark has to have been set up by the production company: there is no way that the ordinary yob in the street would recognise him or remember what had happened three years ago.

  • Ruth Bright 27th Jan '10 - 6:07pm

    Leave Mark alone – if he’s posh and bewildered by the realities of social housing I should think he is pretty representative of our party. Speaking as a 2005 PPC who is child number nine of the ten children of a Romany speaking bricklayer I am certain I would never have been selected if my background had been common knowledge.

  • Mark went to a comprehensive school, which makes him fairly atypical of both our MPs and those of any other party. To portray him as posh and out of touch with ‘ordinary’ people is an editorial lie by THE Sun, and perhaps (we shall see) by the producers of the TV programme.

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th Jan '10 - 9:28am

    Leave Mark alone – if he’s posh and bewildered by the realities of social housing I should think he is pretty representative of our party

    I would hope not. Many of us are or have been councillors for wards with substantial amounts of social housing. Maybe fewer of us actually grew up in such places, but I would hope there are a significant proportion of members whose knowledge is more than from being involved in local government.

    Mark Oaten does seem to have been set up here, yes. But he seems to be the sort of person who is very easily set up.

  • Ruth Bright 2nd Feb '10 - 6:58pm

    Now the programme has actually been aired all the MPs came out of it quite well.

  • i lived 2 mins from them flats for about 4 years and personally know the boys that told him he has aids he needs to sort himself out and dagenham is only that bad when he is there i did not get attacked or abused once in the 4 years i lived there dagenham is not that bad

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