The Big Benefits Row, review: 'Live debate became one big Katie Hopkins Show'

Show was more a thinly veiled attempt to boost Channel 5's ratings

With a panel ranging from professional motormouth Katie Hopkins, "White Dee" from the controversial Channel 4 documentary Benefits Street and ex-Tory MP Edwina Currie, The Big Benefits Row: Live was never going to make for a gentle evening’s viewing.

The main issue at hand - whether the benefits system should be changed – was, as expected, lost to the larger-than-life personality of former Apprentice contestant Katie Hopkins.

The title may as well have been changed to The Katie Hopkins Show. "I’ll point where I like," she said, and point non-stop she did.

Hopkins’ personal insults, misinformed views and "left-wing loons" name-calling dominated to such an extent that few could call the heated discussion a "debate".

"You would be really dangerous if you knew what you were talking about," ex-benefits claimant Annabel Giles pointedly hit back at Hopkins, after the television pundit labelled her "someone who wanted to be a model but didn't make it".

In contrast, Deirdre Kelly, best known as "White Dee" on the now famous James Turner Street in Birmingham, made a composed, articulate first live television appearance.

"I bet the bookmakers have lost a fortune, I bet they thought I’d be the first to swear," she joked to applause from the audience, the majority of which seemed strongly on her side, chanting at one point that "every mother is a working mother".

Take a look at what Britons think of benefits from the results of a recent YouGov poll:

"I haven't been on benefits my whole life," said Dee, 42. "It’s just at the moment. I suffer from depression and I'm being assessed for bipolar disorder."

But Hopkins was straight in with an attack designed to reflect all attention, kicking and screaming, back on to her: "Do you not feel like the patron saint of druggies and drop-outs?" she asked Dee, dismissing her claims of being too unwell to work.

The Reverend Steven Chalke added some important insight into the debate, revealing that children at the school seen on Benefits Street have been subjected to abuse from tourists since the series began.

A few other Benefits Street residents were also in the studio, yelling angry but unhelpful snippets along the lines of "My CV is in every single shop!" and "I do not sit on my bum all day!"

The Independent’s columnist Owen Jones made an appearance after claiming that shows such as Benefits Street "demonise" those on benefits, but Hopkins took so much airtime from him, Spectator editor Fraser Nelson and poverty campaigner Jack Monroe, that their fact-based arguments were lost to the non-stop barrage of immature tempers.

Owen Jones on The Big Benefits Row: The Hopkinsisation of political discourse

Host Matthew Wright presented the live shout-off, asking provocative questions such as "What about tax avoidance?" that served more to heighten the noise levels than anything else.

The Big Benefits Row served up another fast-paced debate among celebrities, politicians, journalists and a studio audience.

But was it a meaningful one or a show designed to boost Channel 5's ratings? Regrettably, the latter.

Read more:
Lily Allen hits back at Katie Hopkins weight gain jibes
What Britain thinks about benefits
As Benefits Street shows, we are quick to demonise and slow to understand
Benefits Street sparks anger and threats of violence

Watch Iain Duncan Smith discuss benefits and Benefits Street

Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power