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.
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.
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.
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.Reuse content