This week we have the most important election in a generation. With the rise of fringe parties like the SNP, Green’s and UKIP, we could permanently throw out our traditional two party system and we could see real change in the way we do politics in this country.
Tonight Joey Essex’s political documentary will air on ITV2. While some of you might scoff at the ex-TOWIE stars credentials for political interviewing, programmes like this could and should change our whole relationship with politics.
I worked on this programme as the assistant producer. I came into it from a current affairs background. I had a strange mix of reactions from my peers. Some good, some bad but the most frequent question was why? Why aren’t you trying to get into more serious programming? My answer to them is simple, this is serious and through this we have an opportunity to reach an audience that doesn’t feel like or know they have a voice in politics. Isn’t that why we work in television? To reach audiences and show them world’s and tell them stories they wouldn’t have otherwise known about. Preaching to the converted is boring.
The concept of Educating Joey is to give him a crash course in an area he knows nothing about. Politics was his idea. He came to the producers disillusioned and frustrated like many other young people. The media notoriously likes to put Joey down and tell him he’s thick, which I think is unfair. I’ve seen him time and time again send himself up, preferring to make a joke of himself in order to get to the heart of what’s being said. Joey will not answer a question untruthfully; if he doesn’t understand something he will tell you. I respect this.
Over the past few months I’ve travelled with Joey on the campaign trail whilst he met and interviewed political leaders. He’s been guided by Owen Jones (The Guardian) and Isabel Hardman (The Spectator), two of the countries top journalists. Each time he has been photographed (and the paparazzi followed us a lot) the headlines usually read “Odd couple Joey Essex and …”. The fact that we think politicians and a person with a Joey’s profile meeting makes an unlikely pairing then I think it’s politics that odd not Joey Essex. In fact his interviewing skills are pretty great, he seems to have a style that is PR proof. On more than one occasion he disarmed them with his questioning.
Russell Brand, someone else I’ve recently worked with, has made a week of Trews videos dedicated to the election. Excitingly, the leader of the opposition even came to his house. But sadly the media were more concerned about whether they rated Russell’s credentials rather than the content of the interview. This idea that only some people have a right or are ‘good enough’ to talk to politicians is all wrong. Its like the political elite is asking ‘are you politician ready?’ And the answer they need to hear is everyone’s ready.
The reason I like working with people like Joey Essex and Russell Brand is because I know I’m making content for people like me. And even though I like both of these guys very much it isn’t really about them. It’s about us. It’s about us breaking down the barriers of the political classes and bringing them down to a level everyone understands and to a point, enjoys. I’m not saying it needs to be a laugh a minute but whack a bit of humanity behind policy and suddenly it feels a lot more relatable. As Joey would put it, if you can’t brief your politics up then your politics is no good. This isn’t to say that politics should always be simple, but it’s saying that the language should be understandable and that no one should be excluded from learning about it.
Each and every one of us has a vote each and no matter which way you choose to go, each vote is as important as the other. So when you turn on your television tonight and see Joey with Nigel Farage or Nick Clegg you might be thinking to yourself, what has Joey Essex got to do with the general election? My answer to you is everything.
Educating Joey Essex: Election Special What are you Sayin? 5th May ITV2 at 9pm