‘White Dee’ asks Nick Clegg to visit Benefits Street

One of stars of Channel 4 reality show tells Lib Dem leader he could ‘win her vote’

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Indy Politics

One of the stars of the controversial documentary series Benefits Street has surprised Nick Clegg live on radio with an invitation to come and visit the road where the show is set.

Deidre Kelly, known on the programme as “White Dee”, phoned in to the Lib Dem leader’s weekly show on LBC radio and told host Nick Ferrari that “we would love him to come”.

“He would see a very clean street,” she said. “He would see people getting together helping each other, people not scrounging, not lying around, children at school, so he'd have to come after school finishes.”

The programme, set on James Turner Street in Birmingham, has been branded “poverty porn” and criticised for demonising people who live off welfare payments.

Mr Clegg said he hadn’t seen the Channel 4 show and, in a reference to the sexual harassment allegations row that dogged the Lib Dems in recent weeks, said: “You may have noticed I’ve had a few other things on that have prevented me from watching TV.”

He went on to say he had heard a lot about Benefits Street, adding: “The impression I've had is you have one side of the argument saying: 'This just shows the whole benefits system is rubbish and we should withdraw benefits, and all the people are scroungers living off the state'.

“And there's another extreme of people who are saying it's outrageous that Benefits Street was ever made and it's demonising people on welfare.

“I strongly suspect both of those caricatures are wrong.”

Nick Clegg joked that he'd 'had a few things on' preventing him from watching TV (BBC/LBC)

Mr Clegg went on: “I think we want a welfare system which is compassionate.

“It's something we should be proud of - that we have something where taxpayers put money into a pot which is then used to help people who are vulnerable, need help with their daily lives where they can't help themselves, or need help to get back into work.

“But receiving help from the generosity of others shouldn't be a way of life, and the incentive to work is the most important one of all.

“That's why, controversial though it's been, I've actually been a big advocate in Government of trying to change the welfare system, trying to change the tax system so you keep more money if you start working even just on a few hours and you always feel better off working than being on benefits.”

Ms Kelly claimed the programme was “very cleverly edited”, telling Mr Clegg: “The programme has been a shock and no way did we ever think it would be this big.”

She alleged show producers had told them it would be “a documentary based around community spirit”.

Mr Clegg said there needed to be a debate “about what sort of welfare state we can afford”, adding the country needed to be “quite hard-headed“ particularly on the question of benefits.

But he added that “demonising” individual groups did nobody any favours.

Asked how she voted, Ms Kelly told Mr Clegg “I'm very into politics. I vote every year. I discuss with people how they should vote because I do say if you don't vote why are you moaning.

She said: “I did actually vote Labour because I was really annoyed when you went into a coalition with the Tories but, hey-ho, you can win me back Mr Clegg.”

When pressed by Ferrari on whether he would take up the invitation to visit James Turner Street, Mr Clegg said: “By the sounds of it I'd love to meet Dee, but I'm not going to make promises on-air that I'm going to turn up on your street Dee.”