Britain's Spending Secrets, TV review: Anne Robinson makes no apologies - she works at what she does well and her staff do the rest

Anne showed us that everyone just tries to keep up with the Jones

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The Independent Culture

Britain’s Spending Secrets showed with excruciating clarity why most people steer clear of talking about money: whichever end of the wealth spectrum you're at, discussing what you do with cash will make you sound like a grade-A knob - particularly if editors lend a hand.

I’ll exempt presenter Anne Robinson from this. She’s reportedly worth £50m and she nailed her colours to the mast early in this entertaining hour: “I’d rather work hard at what I do well and pay staff to do the rest,” she said in, as she put it, a “bottom-clenchingly un-British” way.

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The Addicot family got by on £25,000 a year (BBC)

The rest of the subjects, however, sounded like idiots. There was the single mum relying on handouts who had filled her house with gadgets bought through hire purchase schemes, including a snazzy blue-lit fridge: “Just because I’m on benefits, why shouldn’t I have the nicer things in life?” We met a 32-year-old millionaire entrepreneur who spent £50,000 a year living in hotels for that chocolate-on-the-pillow treatment every night. “There’s no trouble, no tricky neighbours.”

Alfie Best, the Romany gypsy who’d made millions in caravan parks, gave Anne a tour of his empire in a helicopter. It was easy to sneer at Best’s gauche off-the-peg mansion with its dystopian Barbie house nightmare of a dining room, but he wouldn’t give a monkeys what we thought, as he told us all he buys with his wealth are “assets” that he doesn’t get attached to - and anyway, he’s a big fan of bling.

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The Stevens had an annual income of £100,000 (BBC)

Equally not giving a fig was author and journalist Simon Heffer who revealed that he’d sacrificed a second home for Eton school fees. “We could have gone to the West Indies for a month every winter,” he said. Get the violins out.  Anne’s favourite seemed to be the Baroness with Aldi coffee in a Fortnums tin who wore a charity shop hat to “Lady T’s” funeral and made marmalade using old tights rather than forking out for a real kit. Anne pretended to like the eco warriors who “skipped” food from supermarket bins, but we weren’t fooled: “I”m a proper skip snob,” said Jedi-formerly-know-as-Sam, Waitrose salmon in hand.

The segments featuring Mrs Robinson were revealing but upbeat. Like a school marm on holiday, Anne asked uncompromising questions and unearthed holes in stories with warmth (like finding tin-upon-tin of caviar in the “careful” Best’s fridge) while looking unashamedly fabulous in designer togs and a parade of statement specs.

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Anne in multi-millionaire Alfie Best's helicopter (BBC)

The life-swap segments following families living on £25,000 and £100,000 respectively were more uncomfortable. “Aspirational” Darren may have been harshly edited - would anyone actually be vile enough to make someone sit through snaps of his five grand trip to Peru when they couldn’t afford to go beyond Cornwall? - but as he sneered in a charity shop and insisted struggling was “a perception”, he needed one of the presenter’s acerbic put-downs.

Anne's real perceptiveness showed us everyone just tries to keep up with the Joneses; with blue fridges, private school, the right kind of coffee or the choicest rubbish. How silly we all are, but how fascinating it is.

@sally_newall

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