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Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Mystery Tour Part 2

Well, they're trailing the programme now so I can tell you that the Mystery Tour was for Channel 4 Television's "Dispatches" programme next Monday  - here's the link.   So stand by for more detail and some more awful quality photos from me.

I was taking part simply as a member of the public, and the idea was that we would tour round some MPs second homes and give our thoughts. . So we all gathered at Westminster and had our names ticked off the organisers' list by a nice guy in an interesting hat


and then we boarded a bus prominently labelled THE GREAT MPs' EXPENSES TOUR.



The documentary will follow up on the MPs expenses scandal of a couple of years ago. English readers might remember the £1,645 claimed by Conservative MP Sir Peter Viggars for building a beautiful house for his ducks  (click here for a picture of the duck house and the heartwarming news that he plans to sell it for charity. Aaaah! Though not yet.  Boo!)

And then there was the £2,200 claimed from taxpayers by MP Douglas Hogg for cleaning his moat (click here to learn about cleaning moats).  

All within the rules, of course, but taxpayers were not pleased to find this was what their hard earned cash was being spent on.

Now, Prime Minister David Cameron has changed the rules on expenses so MPs can't do this kind of thing any more. But, they can do other things. Certain MPs have found perfectly legitimate reasons for suddenly changing their living arrangements, and then claim extra thousands of pounds for doing so.  So, lots of taxpayers money been saved?  Well, what do you think?

So, it was pouring with rain and the organisers of our trip looked frazzled, as you see in my last post. They're not really in the bus tour or hospitality business so they hadn't checked the bus WC and also didn't get everyone's tea orders quite right.  That was too much for one member of our group.   Before we had even set off, she shouted that she'd asked for TWO tea bags in her cup of tea, and hadn't got them - and also didn't appreciate the lack of paper in the bus WC.  "Disgraceful! This is outrageous!  I'm not putting up with this!" she declared, and flounced out.
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My neighbour on the bus noticed that the indignant lady and her meek partner had both claimed their expenses for the trip, but they didn't repay the expenses to the TV company before they departed.    How appropriate!

:D

I mentioned masks.   These had to be worn on legal advice. Unlike BBC Newsnight recently, these programme makers had consulted lawyers every step of the way and discovered that we mustn't see where these MPs lived - even though  the information is freely available to everyone.   To comply with the lawyers' advice,  we had to put on our masks each time we approached the MP's home in question.  

On arrival, some of us would go out and be filmed discussing the house and the MP's reasons for living where they did. 




The ASDA stop was so we could use the loos, although a few people did take the chance to buy goods too. Actually, the lack of a working loo was a bit of problem.  We couldn't really knock on the MPs' doors and ask to use their bathroom, could we?



The locked and bolted door I showed in my last post was at a Surrey railway station, where we were checking the times of one MP's trains to London. There was, actually, a timetable on the platform itself.


Two people were waiting for a train on the platform. When we all marched on, they pretended not to look at the camera crew, presenter and all suddenly trooping past to discuss the timetable at length.  They just continued scanning their papers and looking at us out of the corner of their eyes.  Ah! I was glad to see the famous British reticence was still alive and well in Surrey.

Our touir guide was investigative journalist Antony Barnett,  who briefed us thoroughly. .



I was impressed by him and  impressed by the other people on the bus, who ranged from pensioners to people just out of school, all of them smart and articulate - better informed and more articulate than me, I thought.   If you see the programme, you will see me wearing a spotted sweater and not saying much.    I don't have a loud voice and I'm not that good at joining in arguments, though I did my best.

The woman sitting next to me on the bus remarked she wasn't THAT keen on close ups of our faces in high definition being beamed around the country, and I had to agree with her there.  Since I didn't say much that was interesting, I don't suppose I've got much to worry about on that score.

Here's one of the cameramen unpacking his gear.  He still has the lens cap on, but when filming,  he'd poke his huge camera between those two seats to film me. Sometimes the lens was only about 30 cm (1 foot)  away.



The outside of the bus was filmed too. We became used to finding cameramen lying in wait  at our destination or coming alongside in a car and poking their lenses up.
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I've never yearned for fame, so I don't care if I don't end up with a speaking part .But I always find the professional process of broadcasting interesting, and I loved seeing how they were putting the programme together.  I'll look forward to the final version with interest.

So long as I didn't have my sweater on back to front, or something.  

45 comments:

  1. Such a civilized way to spread info and discontent! Love it


    Aloha from Honolulu
    Comfort Spiral

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  2. Thank you for the laughs
    Sounds like you all had a jolly good time.

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  3. How absolutely brilliant! I would loved to have shared that adventure! Kind of funny I thought you might have gone to Windsor! ;-) Anyway, I will be sure to watch the program -- has it already been on television? If so I'll catch it on I-player.

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  4. Why on earth should you not see the approaches to an M.P.'s house...

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  5. What a fascinating adventure you had! I remember the MP expense scandal and love that that was the theme. As for the outraged lady...ah, so many characters like that!

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  6. How interesting. I hope we get to see at least a snip of the final product.

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  7. I am sitting here laughing about this whole post! Mainly because I think it's a GREAT idea and hope they do it in the states some time soon. However when I read you hardly talked, I became concerned in that you might be the one they keep showing as the (insert title here as in the angry one, the quite one, the clueless one, etc). Unfortunately, that's what they do in the states :(
    As for using their bathroom, oh yes, I would have knocked on their door, then remind the person that answered it that it IS MY tax money that paid for it and I deserve something for it. Of course they would kick me out, or slam the door in my face, or call the police but hey, it would make for great filming ;)

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  8. I thoroughly enjoyed your interesting description of a very unusual mystery tour.
    Despite the immense expense, I liked the duck house.....but I've never heard of anyone cleaning a moat!
    (of course, moats are rare here in Texas)

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  9. It is always exciting to be part of something and that looked like fun.

    Along with my daughter and granddaughters, I had the opportunity to be on train going into the Redwoods of the Santa Cruz mountains in Ca this summer while a crew from the Travel Channel filed it for an episode. It was a nice experience but we were all much more into the breathtaking scenery than being on TV.

    As for your politicians, well, they are all the same no matter where you go. They are always smiling while they have a hand in your purse.

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  10. Hah - now that you explained it all, it makes perfectly sense!

    Very interesting, even with the lack of proper planning and lack of toilet paper.

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  11. You do get up to some very interesting things, Jenny...Let us know how the broadcast turns out.

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  12. Oh my gosh, this is so cool, and now I have to go back and finish reading your first part. I had just opened it yesterday when we had to get going and I don't believe I even left a word!What a fun set of post. Good times!

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  13. Jenny, this trip astonished me. I thought the 'famous British reticence' is a very good character trait. The duck house is nice for ducks! Not for taxpayers.
    Nadezda
    http://northern-garden.blogspot.com/

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  14. So all is revealed! Looking forward to seeing a spotty (oops, spotted) sweater when the programme is aired!

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  15. Hello Jenny:
    A continuing, fascinating experience although clearly the programme makers were at pains to keep their expenses down with only one tea bag per cup and a shortage of lavatory paper in the bus loo.

    Alas, we have not had a television for over thirty years and so will be forced to miss seeing you in your spotted sweater. That we shall not see the MPs' houses we care not at all.

    We leave for Venice shortly where we shall be without the internet. We shall look forward to catching up on our return.

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  16. I would never have guessed that this was what you were up to. Fascinating! But I did wonder if the Asda stop was for a loo break - bah, wish I'd said so now!
    I can't get over the tea bag lady - was she an undercover MP? :-) x

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  17. Aah, so definitely not mystery shopping unless you were in the market for a third home or a career in stealing from the poor to feed the rich! I always find filming to be quite exhausting.

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  18. I imagine that you might have found the exercise embarrassing Jenny? let us know how it works out when they show it on the tele? - Dave

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  19. I must look out for that! (My MP - now retired - claimed for cleaning his swimming pool! He's hiding in luxury these days!)

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  20. The way TV programmes are manufactured fascinates me and I'd love to see this. Unfortunately the programme on iPlayer won't be available outside the UK. I'll have to try and remember to get someone to record it. Problem is that in 6 months when I get back to the UK I'll have forgotten all about it.

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  21. You get involved in the most interesting things. I got a laugh out of the two tea bag lady going off in a huff. Hope you will be able to show us or link us to the finished show.

    Darla

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  22. It sounds like an interesting and informative adventure.

    Enjoy your "15 minutes of fame"!

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  23. Lol I'll have to watch this! There's no way they should have been filming any of you without access to the make-up department - after all MP would insist on it if they were appearing on TV!

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  24. Jenny: Your photos were more than adequate to tell the story. What a hoot! Thank you for giving me some new ideas.

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  25. The up side of no loo paper on the bus was that one need not worry about having a piece of it stuck to one's shoe (especially embarrassing if appearing on camera).

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  26. Very interesting. I shall make sure to watch the programme. And check your sweater's the right way round!

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  27. Not much chance I'll ever get to see the programme, but I enjoyed the post!

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  28. I now have a television. I hope I can get an aerial attached to it soon.

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  29. What an excellent adventure. I'll be interested in hearing your thoughts after you see the program.

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  30. Very interesting tour! I did get a chuckle out of the lady & her tea bags. Having taken many bus tours, I do sympathize about the WC on the bus, however.
    Maybe someone should come up with this idea in the US to expose all the excesses there must be amongst senators and congressmen.

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  31. Now that's quite a mystery ... of the hidden taxpayer's money! I'm sure there's a lot to uncover (beyond private sex scandals) over here in the US too. Great bit of investigative journalism you hitched a ride on. I don't know if I'll ever get to see the actual show but would have loved to have spotted you in your spotted sweater. And I don't believe a word when you say how the others seemed more articulate than you! But I do share your reticence with the camera, particularly at point blank range. I think I would have instinctively pulled on the mask whenever the camera man panned my way if I'd been there!

    Well, I think you all were troupers going for 10 hours without a proper WC. If there's one thing I like to map out on trips, it's loo stops every hour. Perhaps it's just as well the lady didn't get her two tea bags, diuretics that they are!

    Jenny

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  32. Sounds like an interesting trip. My partner worked for Channel 4 for a few years and we got a taste of camera men at our house and I hated every moment of it. I really have no desire to be seen on tv at all, especially in high definition! And I can totally understand why stars throw a wobbly and attack these guys, I myself was very close to driving at one guy photographing me as I left my house!

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  33. Interesting post. Sad to think that if they tried something like this in the states, it would probably be met with a nod, a wink, and a shrug.

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  34. Like you I'm always interested in the seeing the processes behind things, so your little jaunt would have been good in that respect. Hmmmm 10 hours though, you're to be admired for sticking it out... masks, lack of toilet paper and teabags notwithstanding - lol :D) Great post Jenny.

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  35. Great adventure. Your discovery tour sounded so exciting. Like you I go around discovering, and do so through my photo lense.

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  36. I can't wait to see you! You don't realise it, but you are fortunate, in this country, to be able to scrutinise your MPs expenses. It is a lot worse in France and nobody says anything. It doesn't excuse the duck house, obviously!

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  37. This sounds like quite an interesting adventure!

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  38. Sounds like an interesting adventure that people wouldn't normally get the opportunity to do. Wearing masks is a little bit unusual so I wonder if someone peeked. If I was that lady, I wouldn't have ordered the tea without the proper supplies in the WC. :D

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  39. I've been reading this and other posts I've missed. I have to say this is pretty fascinating. And awfully fun!

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  40. Very interesting - and how strange about the masks!

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  41. ugh on the expenses...that was quite an adventure you were on...intriguing on the masks...communal WCs...err can be quite sketchy...

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  42. Hi Jenny, I have loved reading your 2 posts on the 'Mystery Tour', what a hoot, and how very interesting. I love seeing into people's homes. I am sure the behind the scenes look was most satisfying for you. Many thanks for your comments on my tureen. Much love, Linda x

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  43. Thanks to everyone for these great comments! I saw the programme, and I was just about possible to glimpse in the background! There was one shot of me looking very, very bored but just as I opened my mouth to speak, they cut away. I clearly do not have obvious star quality :) Yes, I think this kind of programme is very good and I am surprised that they don't have them in the US. I am sure that politicians trying to pull a fast one is not unique to the UK.

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