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
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears