Thinking of applying for Britain’s Hardest Grafter? Read this first.

TwentyTwenty productions are looking for applicants for a new television show that has been described as ‘Benefits Street meets The Hunger Games’. Are you thinking of applying for the chance to win that staggering £15,000 sum? Here’s what you should know first – and I am probably doing myself out of ever getting another job in television by writing this article but you know what? Fuck it. Because I wish someone had told me.

1. Only one of you will win that £15,000. It’s also classed as ‘earnings’, so you will have to pay tax on it, and National Insurance contributions.

2. The rest of you will be ‘recompensed’ ‘not less than the National Minimum Wage’ for your time on the show. Bear in mind that the people you will be surrounded by, the presenters and camera crew and the ubiquitous ‘celeb’ they’ll roll out here and there, will be being paid hundreds, if not thousands, every day. You will be surrounded by people whose ‘wage’ will be worth dozens of yours, and some of them will treat you accordingly.

3. The media will trawl through your social networks and dig up and store any photographs they can find as evidence to fit the ‘character’ they will invent for you. Take my advice and remove completely any pictures of you with a beer in your hand, and DEFINITELY any champagne bottles or glasses. It doesn’t matter to the picture desk whether that’s a Cava from Lidl, they will paint you as a champagne-quaffer at the taxpayers expense. Ditto any photos of you with a fag in your hand (or worse), any party pictures, foreign holidays, shit even any pictures of that Devon caravan park where the weather was good because a little PhotoShop and they can legitimately accuse you of living it up on holiday. It doesn’t matter how private you think those photos are, it just takes one untrustworthy person on your friends list to right click em and save em and forward them on. And believe me, they will contact your friends list for access. It’s not illegal. It’s not right, but it’s not illegal. These days I only drink bubbles from wine glasses, firstly so the Mail can’t get their ‘Champagne Socialist’ picture caption and secondly if I’m at the kind of party where they’re handing booze out on the door, I need as much of it as possible to peel myself off the wall and talk to someone – and wine glasses hold twice as much.

4. They will dig out photographs of your children, from Facebook, from twitter, from Instagram, from any personal blogs or websites, from parenting groups, from Mumsnet, and store them to use at their leisure, to accompany any stories about you that they wish. They will name your children. They will speculate on their parentage. They will judge the clothes they are dressed in without giving a fuck about whether they were coming in from the garden or in old clothes to help decorate or a bow tie for a wedding. Commentators will judge your children on their weight, appearance, speculate on your family makeup. I write recipes, for crying out loud, and have defended about seventeen different versions of events of how I got pregnant and what happened next, including a Daily Mail piece asking how lesbians get pregnant in the first place. They could have just asked, but honest answers are hard to shoehorn into a narrative, so they invent instead.

5. It is not ‘tomorrows chip paper’. Not any more. Not in a digital age. Other peoples lies and versions of your life story are digitally stored to be pulled up for years and years and years to come. Your children, growing up, will be able to find the nasty things that people wrote about you for other peoples entertainment. They’ll be able to find the nasty things that people wrote about them, for other people’s entertainment. Lazy journalists will use old articles as gospel, and quote them in their own. The twisted version of your life story will be repeated so often as to become an irrefutable fact in the minds of the establishment media.

6. People who you thought were your friends will be queueing up to make a fast buck at your expense. Worse, people you had forgotten even existed, old cousins, people you have never even met but have some loose connection, will formulate something shocking out of scraps of memory held together with large doses of fiction and their own bollocks opinions, and try to sell it to whatever rag will have it. They’ll legitimise their version of events with a few childhood photos, or some other tenuous link. Think it won’t happen to you? I get emails forwarded to me from newspaper editors where people I barely know have ‘offered’ completely fictitious stories, demanding cash for them. It was Jimmy Carr’s dad who lit the blue touch paper about his tax – whatever you think of it, it illustrates that people who are supposed to be our nearest and dearest can be utterly shit when faced with the prospect of easy money and their face in the paper.

7. Journalists will harass vulnerable members of your family. My mum is profoundly disabled – I don’t generally talk about it, but this is the Mum that Edwina Currie tried to claim was loaded on national television to unhinge me in a debate about food banks. My mum was a nurse, until she hurt herself lifting a patient when I was about five or six years old. She has half a scrappy kidney, chronic fybromyalgia, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and she’s deaf. She has walked with crutches for as long as I can remember. I spent most of my early childhood up to my teens not understanding why she was in hospital almost every month for an operation and fearing she would die any moment. This doesn’t stop the Telegraph banging on her door the day after she has got out of hospital from an operation, refusing to take no for an answer, returning several times (having been told she is sick in bed and it takes a long painful time to get down the stairs). She phoned me in tears asking me if there was anything I could do to get them to leave her alone. I tweeted to 70,000 people that they were utter shits or something along those lines, and they stopped knocking. For now.

8. The scummier arms of the media don’t care about your personal life or relationships beyond selling newspapers. The Sun interviewed me about my book back in 2013, and managed to twist my saying that my son’s father was an excellent, supportive man into making him sound feckless and absent. He reads the Sun. His friends read the Sun. I have maintained a good relationship with this man for the last 6 years while we raise a child together and a few sentences in a national newspaper caused such ferocious upset I feared it may never heal. His friends went mad at me, accusing me of lying to the newspaper to get publicity (it didn’t occur to them that journalists tell lies). He was hurt and bemused by the assault on his character, and I felt obscenely guilty – it was my ‘success’ causing hurt to so many people I love and care for, and I took the blame for it.

9. You will be painted as a scrounger, a skiver, reckless, feckless and workshy. Television programmes are edited for the ‘most interesting’ footage, X Factor and Big Brother style. Any arguments, disagreements, a 30 second clip of you scratching your bum, being last to turn up, will all be threaded together like a necklace of car crash pearls, carefully planting the seeds of your assigned ‘character’ in the minds of the viewers. Future employers will likely be watching this show, and you can say what you like in interview, but their minds will already have been made up for them by however TwentyTwelve Productions want to paint you.

10. Years later, you might buy yourself a roast dinner at a pub, and a newspaper will try to ruin you for it. I completed the Live Below The Line challenge this year, raising over £7,000 for Street Child United by eating barley and tiny portions of soup every day for 5 days. In recognition of that and because he’s a nice and awesome person, my friend Nick who runs the Drapers Arms in Islington invited me to lunch at the end of it, to celebrate surviving the week and to get something good inside to try to restore my carb-laden tiredness and nutrient-deprived body with some meat and vegetables. I had a wonderful time, restorative and joyous and relaxing and just a brilliant afternoon. The next day a Daily Mail features writer tweeted a photo of my lunch, claiming it had cost £60 (it hadn’t), and trying to smear me as a hypocrite ‘at Islington eaterie’. It’s not an eaterie. It’s a pub. He even tweeted the Green Party into the bargain to stir up the old argument that all Green supporters should be vegan or vegetarian. I have been gainfully employed for about three years now. I work 70 hours a week. I am typing this ON HOLIDAY at half past 8 at night because I work from waking to sleeping, seven days a week. Nobody pays me while I am sick. Nobody pays me while I am on holiday. I just work. And if I want to spend some of the fruits of my labours on a pub lunch, I fucking will. I pointed out to him my Mulberry handbag, bought with my second book deal advance, because if I am ever poor again it’s nice to know I have assets to sell to get back on my feet, although I think the 5 year old doodling on it with a blue biro might have knocked a bit off its value. Regardless, you will be made to feel bad for ever doing well for yourself or breaking ‘out of character’. When someone asks me where my loud and proud gay trousers are from, I am embarrassed to say ‘Vivienne Westwood’ because it has been drummed into me that I cannot have nice things. My nice tux I wore to the Stonewall awards? It’s from The Kooples. And I WORKED for them and I EARNED them and I will wear them with fucking impunity, and if I am ever so skint I can’t afford to eat again, I will sell them and buy kidney beans and rice and bacon. Most of the rest of my wardrobe is Oxfam. But yes, I can now have nice things.

I am writing this because I wish someone had told me. I wish someone had told me, before I signed a book deal for a recipe book – because I needed a job and it was a job – that I was going into a war, unarmed. That that war would be fought against multinational corporations with huge legal teams, against keyboard warriors, against anonymous abusers and newspaper columnists with followings of millions of devoted acolytes. I am writing this because people applying for this show don’t even have the guarantee of the cheque at the end of it, like I did with my book deal. You have ‘a chance of’ winning £15,000. That will be taxed before you get your hands on it. And take months to turn up in the first place.

It isn’t a life changing amount of money. You can clear some debts with it and pay a few months rent, but at what cost? At what price? For daily abuse and trolling and maybe even death and rape threats into the bargain? For anonymous commenters speculating about how your kids should be taken away? For Gods sake, Chukka Umunna stepped out of the leadership race for the Labour Party because the media started digging around in his private life. Lucy Meadows, a teacher who was transgender, hung herself after Littlejohn wrote an article attacking her in the Daily Mail. You really think they won’t do it to you, too?

Jack Monroe. On Twitter and Instagram @MsJackMonroe

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Categories: Blog, NEWS

127 Comments »

  1. Jack, you do deserve nice things, you’ve worked for them. Ignore the pathetic naysayers. Those ghastly ‘journalists’ have a special place in Hell waiting for them.

  2. Superb article that anyone every thinking of engaging with any of the media should read and then re-read and then sleep on before they do anything. Thanks so much for posting it.

  3. I hope this makes it’s way to anyone contemplating doing any shows like these, they just need to read some of the awful stuff thrown at you.
    I’m a Fibro sufferer love to your mum and to you as a sufferers daughter, it’s pure hell for all family members.
    Carry on regardless Jack we only have one life so live it how you want!! xx

  4. Brilliant, beautiful writing. If only the people who worked for and read the Telegraph, Sun and Mail had souls.

  5. writing is an honest job if you make it one, which you do. Right livelihood is a precept well kept. haters hate, it’s what they do. The world goes on. Don’t get too irate.

  6. Brilliant article. I feel sad and furious at the same time at the way the poor are shamelessly exploited for TV shows like a Victorian circus freak show.

  7. Don’t let the bastards get you down Jack. And take a break. You’re right of course. Television doesn’t care. About anyone. I hope no one forgets that one simple fact.

  8. I am literally choking up reading this. I started following your blog earlier this year as I’m trying to feed a family of four on a tight budget while my partner trains to be primary school teacher and I try to write freelance. But you have inspired much more than my cheap eats with your tireless campaigning and comments – I’ve even ended up joining the Green Party, ffs!! It seems that there’s many people in this country who can’t bear to think people can lift themselves out of poverty and make a better life. I’m positive your son will grow up thinking what you did, for both of you, is amazing.

  9. Such a strong piece. You should be able to be proud of all you’ve achieved and bugger the gutter scum who try to make out that you shouldn’t. Your voice is important and you may never know the inspiration and hope you give people. Hope you enjoy the rest of your holiday, you deserve to.

  10. Jack the “powers that be want you to live your life under the radar”. Stay strong, you are a powerful voice. I salute you.

  11. Your life is not your own. 1984 may have been 31 years ago but Big Brother isn’t just a programme, the horrible feeding frenzy of press intrusion is LIKE big brother, straight from George Orwell’s novel but a hundred times worse because it all appears so.normal. Thanks jack

  12. Agree with all you say. No point in joining up for something so invasive for a comparatively small financial reward.
    But, just one thing: Most of us are culpable in encouraging the intrusiveness of the media. We watch the reality shows, read the sidebar of shame, engage in gossip. It is not an endearing part of human nature, but if people would much prefer to know only about the hard news stories going on in the world, the celeb/trash fodder would quickly fade away.
    It’s only once the spotlight is aimed at you, that you realise how horrid and destructive it is. Not excusing the media, just trying to see the light and dark of it all.

  13. It amazes me after this, and Leveson and a picture of Milliband eating a sandwich on the front page of the sun the day before the election…..this country accepts all the crap that the media peddle!
    I’d like to think most of us are incredibly insulted by much of the so called news in this so called democracy which champions Free Speech.
    Sadly, we are clearly just a stupid as they are convinced we are.

  14. Whilst I agree with you about this proposed TV programme, it’s a shame it’s inspired some of the commentators on here to brand all the media as the same. That is simplistic, untrue and I’m sure you know that yourself as a columnist for The Guardian.

  15. Don’t let the haters ruin your success Jack. Those of us who have been following you since the early days are delighted for you and wish you every success and happiness :)x

  16. You have a real talent Jack, and good for you for fighting back. At least you are eloquent!!! And you are spot on of course. Sadly, I’m sure we only know the half of what goes on. At least you tried to warn people. Take care of yourself and your family. And don’t let the bastards grind you down! Cheers.

  17. Great and very sobering article.

    Your fans at least are very glad that we’ve heard of you and that you’ve achieved so much. Though it’s outrageous what going viral and fame has meant for you and your family, as you so eloquently describe above.

    I’ll reiterate the above you deserve nice things. You work far longer hours than many people a lot richer than you, and in what universe (whilst recognising many can’t afford to even eat) is a Sunday lunch at a pub some kind of extravagant luxury that makes someone a champaign socialist?

    As Charlotte Church and other left-leaning wealthy people have pointed out, left wingers are screwed either way – we’re either jealous of the rich – “the politics of envy” (which greedy Andy Burnham – unnecessarily claiming £17,000 a year to rent a flat he doesn’t need whilst owning another in London – has disgracefully accused mansion tax supporters of) , or we’re champagne socialists. You seriously can’t win.

    I was happy to hear you’d joined the Greens too – I joined myself in January (I’d never been a political party member too) – though even that led to electronic abuse.

    Enough to put anyone off trying to succeed or following their conscience isn’t it? 😦

  18. Jack, you never hear from thousands of us who care and value you and all your family because we appreciate you and what you do quietly. I promise you we outnumber all the media shits and their wilfully slanted views. You are winning my love.

  19. It’s so sad that you do something truly good and are treated so badly, no one deserves this level of harassment and scrutiny, but you of all people who have only tried to help people and raise awareness for poverty?
    I just hope you realise how much and how many people you have helped. I suffered in silence, heard the sneers about me when I was in a desperate situation people didn’t understand, but because of you my family could understand the situation, and there is a lot less hostility I have found since you started a narrative.
    Thanks for what you do, and I hope if it’s not worth the hostility, at tbe least you can recognise how much you’ve helped xx

  20. It takes a strong woman to swim against the current, even a dead fish will go with the flow.
    Keep doing what your doing, you don’t fit their stereotypes and I think you scare them so they try to discredit you.
    You deserve to enjoy your success instead of feeling like you’re being punished for it.
    In our house you are held in very high regard.

  21. The answer to all these rubbish gutter press so called reality TVs shows is for the public not to watch them, the ratings go down, the adverts drop off they become unprofitable and are canned. Unfortunately people are voyeuristic and follow this rubbish and it becomes cheap and easy and profitable to produce. We don’t watch any of these shows, we don’t watch much current affairs with their foot in the door rubbish about conned pensioners(I’m sorry, but if you’re offered a return that sounds too good to be true and you’re greedy enough to take it …) we also vote with our feet and won’t travel to sus places like Bali or the Middle East . I think the public gets the TVs (& the govt ) they deserve. Good on you for letting people know the truth, but there’s always someone that thinks they’re clevere and will take it on.

  22. I’m not a fan of reality shows, and this latest concoction really scrapes the bottom of the barrel! How can we ever hope to build a fair and compassionate society when people support such drivel! We should boycott these sorts of media money rubbish that is making huge profits at the expense of desperate people. Well done Jack for speaking out!

  23. Poverty Porn (as it’s now termed) is probably the lowest form of entertainment on the planet. When the fuck did the world become so bitter and twisted that the misfortune of others is the only way to gain a modicum of enjoyment???

    You know, and I truly hate to say this, but I really despair of the human race right now. We’re fucking up-right, walking, talking intelligent creatures but yet we’re so easily fooled by the lies of men who, themselves, are nothing more than second-rate Snake-Oil salesmen.

    Day after day on the covers of most of the papers we’re greeted by stories of how some “ruthless scrounger” is “bleeding the system dry” yet, take a small stick, gently poke away at the story and it falls to pieces like some three week old dried out turd. But still, people are taken in by this utter arse gravy.

    The population needs to wake up and smell the bullshit.

    • Your comment reflects how I see the world currently, but you have also introduced me to a wonderful phrase I shall now use often.
      Arse gravy. So eloquent and descriptive. Thank you.

  24. At the end of the day, you can only live your life to your own morals & standards. People will judge, but so what? Life is tough at times, but you just have to get on with what you believe in.

  25. I’m so very sorry. This is horrible. I’m quite ashamed as to how many people lap this shite up.

    There’s a fair point to be made here which is that if you sign up to a life of celebrity you should be aware that the general public will be more interested in your life. However, there’s a line and it’s been BEYOND crossed.

  26. I only have read this due to it being shared, but you are wrong ver wrong on this point

    2. The rest of you will be ‘recompensed’ ‘not less than the National Minimum Wage’ for your time on the show. Bear in mind that the people you will be surrounded by, the presenters and camera crew and the ubiquitous ‘celeb’ they’ll roll out here and there, will be being paid hundreds, if not thousands, every day. You will be surrounded by people whose ‘wage’ will be worth dozens of yours, and some of them will treat you accordingly.

    You need to take the camera crew and the production crew, all who are probably self employed and struggling and will take any work offered.

    Other than that great article

  27. I learnt a tiny lesson about the press and even the BBC news many years ago when they all so misreported a minor industrial action in the Registration Service that the stories bore only a tenuous relation to the actual facts. Since then I have not read newspapers and have taken all news reporting with a huge handful of salt. It is indeed very scary that many of the nation’s decisions (elections, referenda etc) are heavily influenced by the media. Today’s post from you makes very sobering reading – what are we coming to?

  28. I read “The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum” in high-school, many years ago, and it made a big impression. I’ve never seen the media with the same eyes afterwards. It sucks that you prove it is still true in this day and age, probably even more so due to the digital age. Your experiences sound horrifying. I hope the fact that you are such an inspiration for so many people balances it out a little bit.

  29. Well said.
    Unfortunately I doubt it will be enough to put off the sort of deluded folk who crave their fifteen minutes of fame, but I hope it will stop alot of people watching the programme and putting up their ratings. It certainly will put me off all such nasty reality series and I will do my utmost to spread the word.

  30. Brilliant, what a fantastic eye-opener to the price of fame. Some people don’t realise quite how much the media can manipulate and bully. Love your writing and how you manage to rise above those that try their very best to bring you down. Let it bounce off and leave you unscathed. Thanks for posting this.

  31. Here in the US, there was a TV show in the 50’s (dating myself here) called Queen for a Day, the premise being whoever had the most tragic story of insufficiency got a crown, a bouquet of roses and a washer and dryer or some such prize. I remember thinking (at the tender age of 8 or so) what a horrible way to help this poor woman; having to subject herself to piteous groveling on national TV. Plus Ça Change and all that.

    Thank you for your truth telling; television train wrecks would be less palatable if people knew it didn’t end with ‘Cut’.

  32. Twenty twenty are the most vile TV production company going they bought us benefit street now they want to sink lower than even I thought was possible for them and produce this shite!

  33. You certainly make that 15k cheque a piddling amount for the intrusion, labor, consequnces, shame, abuse that would go into possibly winning it.

    Isn’t it a perfect illustration of pitting the poor against each other.

    United we stand, divided we flail…and fail!

    And now Jack isn’t goin to be on, shoot the TV!

  34. Great article!!!! Many points I had never even considered before. Not that I would ever get on a reality show, but in case I ever have to make friends or my kids think twice about their actions, public image and the perception it creates. Yes, other people’s opinions don’t matter, but boy would it be difficult to walk a mile in your shoes, being judged every step of the way. So, thank you, Jack! Also… Aren’t you supposed to be clawing your way out of poverty? Making something of yourself? It is odd then that you would be judged for the irreputable evidence that, indeed, you have left those days behind you. That one does not stay on the government aid forever, leeching the country dry. If anything, your pub lunch, nice clothes and accessories should be held up as an example! As an inspiration to anyone struggling or as reassurance to anyone still on the fence about helping out those less fortunate.

    • She could single-handedly save a litter of puppies from imminent death and somebody, somewhere will find a way to attack the lass.

      I think it’s what the Aussies call tall poppy syndrome.

  35. Really powerful article. I hope it makes some people stop and think before applying. As you say, it’s good to know the rules before you enter the game. Happy holiday ☺

  36. Jack, your ‘problem’ was that when you made it out of poverty by getting your book deal, you didn’t pull up the ladder behind you and pretend it had never happened. It’s the fact that you continue to fight for those stuck in the poverty trap that upsets the powers that be. You stop them getting away with the usual cliche that everyone on benefits is a scrounger. They look at you working and doing well and can’t point the finger at you for being a shirker rather than a worker.
    As for stories about your sexuality, family make up and your relationship with SBs father, well, that’s just pure nastiness to make up when they don’t have a cohesive argument against you!
    You know you must be doing something right if Hatey Katie tries to slate you!!!!!

  37. Powerful and terrifying and my heart goes out to you for having to endure it all when you are the last person to deserve it. heck, NO-ONE deserves all that.

    What is amazing is that you are still here. YOU are amazing.
    J x

  38. Unfortunately there will be people applying because they’re under the sad illusion that being on this programme, even if they don’t win, will bring them further opportunities for money or a job along with the fact some will just be so blinded by this chance at their 5 min of fame, I hope your arguments chance at least one persons mind or at least makes a few more think twice as to what they really are letting themselves in for.
    It’s sad how so much of the media seems to love benefit-bashing painting people out of work through being unemployed or sick/disabled as scroungers, I’d love to be back working doing the job I love of arts admin and marketing but who’d employ me when I can become sick enough to need ITU treatment in the space of 24hrs and when going out the house for the day leaves me sleeping all the next day. Even when I was well enough to work I did reduced hours (just 20) over 4 days with a day off midweek to sleep and recover and my health was much better and more stable back then (about 10yrs ago). I’m on benefits but also married to my wife who works super hard and so earns a good enough wage to support us both so we’re lucky we have enough to live on and pay for nice treats sometimes but all this benefit bashing has only added to my anxieties when I spend the money my wife brings in. Another disabled person I spoke to recently also commented how now she finds everyone presumes when seeing she’s disabled that she therefore *must* be on benefits she couldn’t possibly be working which is so sad!

  39. For some people and as Bart Simpson memorably said; You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t’ . I quite like a glass of champagne , I also consider myself to be on the left of politics so clearly I am a champagne socialist. perhaps I ought to get out my flat cap and whippet and sup a pint of mild. ( I quite like mild as well !). Bet that would be wrong for some people too. I agree with all you say, you have become successful and you deserve to enjoy life but you also deserve privacy . just keep on keeping on, a lot of us appreciate your efforts and thoughts. Much love.

  40. My dearest friend hashed to put up with shit from the media for years. His crime beinfpg the son of a very well known TV chef. It has been at some cost to his own well being and happiness, how he has coped I can’t imagine. Thanks for sharing your considered opinions and enjoy the rest of your ‘holiday’.

  41. Your point about the £15k paying income tax and NI is an interesting one, because it is possible for a rich individual or couple to have an income of about £50k/yr each and pay no tax:

    £42k dividends – £10k covered by allowance, remainder at 20%, but actually covered by 10% “tax credit” so no extra tax to pay
    £10k gains from selling shares – under the CGT allowance, so no tax

    You need assets of c. £3 million – but still an interesting example of how the system is designed to penalise income from work, and reward income from wealth.

  42. Having worked in TV (not any more) I have seen first hand how things are manipulated to fit the narrative. Contributors are generally excitedly naive to the whole thing, and even in “reality” TV they are directed – “say this”, “do that”, “hold this cigarette and start swearing” and before they realise what’s happening they’ve been painted as something they’re not.
    This is entertainment folks, and it’s cheaper to hire and manipulate a Patsy than an actor

  43. I have never commented on a blog before but this is was such a powerful and evocative piece of writing that i had to comment I have been following your blog for a while now. I can relate you to you on so many levels I have been absolutely skint had fuck all when my kids where little and got my self out of that working for a local authority earning a really good wage was able to buy my self nice stuff and enjoy the fruits of my labour and why fucking not I deserve it i worked hard for it…..five years ago following the death of my sister really young to breast cancer I lost my job and have found my self once again broke I was able to sell some of the things I brought at that time but i remember the looks I’d get when going to sign on looking really smart in expensive clothes as if i wasnt allowed I wasnt always skint i wanted to shout………..but I tell you what I would much rather be in the position I am now the working for a local council who are meant to be an equal opportunity employee but when the crunch comes to the crunch they really couldnt give a shit

  44. Gosh…trying to imagine “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They” in the internet age. Thanks, as always, for hanging in there and telling it like it is.

  45. This is an amazing article – thank you for writing it.

    For those who are interested, there is a change.org petition to stop Britain’s Hardest Grafter.

  46. So well said. The media (print, tv, radio, internet journalists) have to make a story and often are completely unscrupulous about how they do so. Sadly, people also love to buy those stories and often more sadly believe them. I love the way you’re prepared to stick your head above the parapet Jack, I hope some of us are covering your back while you do so.
    PS I refuse to give the Daily Wail houseroom.

  47. That’s a scorcher, Jack, powerfully put. Those fools aren’t worth listening to. I spit in their general direction. A way larger crowd of people respect you & what you’re doing. x

  48. Reblogged this on helenrib and commented:
    Insightful, incisive, impassioned – and just plain right.

    Ask yourself – why are there so many “poverty shows” on TV ? Because they make us feel safe or smug or good – pity or revile the poor, it’s your choice. Be titillated by our primitive fear of the mob. Then turn off and forget about it. The politicians have – did you notice how ‘ending child poverty’ slid off the agenda in this election? Clearly a policy no longer on trend.
    If you care at all about people living below the poverty line don’t watch this sort of nonsense.

  49. Just wanted to thank you for your illuminating comments on the price of fame when it offends the hypocritical sods who think no-one is entitled to an income unless they support the establishment.
    It really stuffs them that someone can tell people how it is rather than their lying version of skivers , benefit fraudsters and anyone else they are prepared to shit on lives.
    From an eighty year old pensioner lucky enough to have a reasonable income who realises how lucky he is.
    All the best.
    Bill

  50. I admire you and what you have achieved Jack, even if I disagree with many of your opinions.

    May I ask (and if the answer is no, so be it) if you have described the circumstances and decisions leading up to you having your son? I don’t really want to read the tabloid version.

    I ask because, when I first heard about your blog and your story, I couldn’t help but want to ask the question it seemed absolutely forbidden to ask: where was “Dad” in all of this? I specifically remember a poignant post about sending your son for Christmas at his father’s because you knew he would have a better time there… But if the man is supportive, and the whole thing has been mutual and amicable, why weren’t you invited? And if he was close enough to raise a child with, wasn’t he close enough to temporarily help you out when you fell on such hard times?

    Of course, you can tell me to get lost and that this is all personal and none of my business, which would be entirely fair. It’s just difficult to accept both the hard times stuff about the misery of hunger and scraping by, if the relationship story is being presented as perfectly cool and modern and “he’s a great guy, we’re raising a son together”, you know?

    • I may be misreading your comment but it’s tone suggests that you’re a supercillious arsehole. Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

      • Jam tomorrow, The answers you are asking for are actually in Jacks early blogs, yes SB has a father who takes part in his life, why wasn’t Jack invited for Christmas, well the same reasons as she didn’t go to her parents, grandparents or any other friends either at that time , now I could fill in the blanks for you but I’m not going to given the manner of your question, but the answers are there in black and white!!!! your missing out on the real story, one that is Jacks and she’ll tell you in various forms it’s thousands other as well

      • Supercilious. What a wonderfully easy put down. Is the irony of calling someone a supercilious arsehole lost on you? Clearly to call me an arsehole you feel you’re superior to me in some way (i.e. not an arsehole, or less of one).

        All that’s really happening here is you disagree with me, and you seem to think it’s arrogant of me to have my thoughts rather than yours. Well, grow up and join the adult world.

        As per my reply below, Jack’s writing has not only been about food. She’s written about welfare, poverty and her personal experience. She’s shared the trials of being at home with her son and having nothing to feed him with. She’s chosen to give some information about her son’s father to the press before, as mentioned in this article. That is all private information she has chosen to share. I politely asked whether she’d gone any further about the background to that situation. I predicted that she may want to keep this to herself, and she does. Fine. I’m grateful for her reply.

        Finally, as you invited correction if you were wrong: The possessive pronoun “its” doesn’t have an apostrophe, and “supercilious” doesn’t have a double L.

    • It would be reasonable to assume that, while ‘Dad’ may be able to host a nice Christmas Day at his place for his immediate family and a small boy, he isn’t in a position to support another household, and perhaps doesn’t have the relationship setup to invite Jack. Supportive is one thing, having plenty of spare money and a partner open to hanging out with exes is another.

      It’s more reasonable to assume this is the case than ask questions. If the above scenario, or something like it, isn’t the case; if ‘Dad’ had plenty of cash lying around and was in a position to share it; well then, Jack has clearly been lying about her situation. As readers, we get to decide from Jack’s writing whether we think Jack is generally being honest or making up a whole load of fiction. We don’t have the right to know any more than what we’re offered, and we don’t have the right to constantly query or push for more information (which is another way of saying we don’t believe what Jack has told us). Either we do believe Jack’s basic position, and we don’t need to know details which may be painful for her or others to share, or we don’t believe her, and we can choose to read something else.

      • I see what you mean, but my aim in asking really wasn’t to lead to implications of dishonesty, or confrontation. Jack has written a lot about her situation (arguably it is what has given her the platform she has) and it seemed perfectly possible to me that she had, at some point in time, outlined all the details leading to it, including – as she herself raises in this article – how she as a lesbian got pregnant. In fact, in the article she suggests that “they could have just asked”. Well, I’m asking.

        I don’t think we need to be as two dimensional as to accept everything at face value without further enquiry, or on the other hand accuse of lying and not read anything someone writes! I can’t think of any other sphere in which that’s a reasoned, adult response.

        It is quite important because of life is linked, these issues don’t stand in isolation. If you said “we need to help those in poverty” and I said “here’s some money”, you would quite rightly (I hope) tell me that isn’t enough; that we need to understand why. Are there jobs available? Is pay too low? Is there discrimination towards that particularly section of society? Family, parenthood and relationships is all wrapped up in this too, whether we like it or not. It’s ludicrous to ask all the other questions, but then when someone starts to ask “Er, why aren’t you and Dad together…?” to tell them it’s none of their business. if you’re asking me to pay more tax to give in financial aid to people in such a situation, it sort of is my business.

      • I’m not asking you to pay ‘more tax’. Does that help? I don’t go into the minutae because nobody else in my family, extended or immediate, should be subject to the level of scrutiny that I am. I barely cope with it after three years but I suck it up because it’s a part of my work – why should anyone else be judged and suffer for the impertinence of being my friend or family? It would be deeply unfair of me to thrust them into the underbelly of the commentariat, so I don’t. But please rest assured that if I was hiding a millionaire CEO baby-daddy somewhere, or if any iota of my personal circumstances had been different to how I have reported them day by day by day, the Mail would have sniffed it out in a heartbeat. It saddens me that people can be so cynical, and that no matter how many pounds of flesh I gouge out, some people will always want more. Please respect my wishes to not drag people that I care about very deeply into the public spotlight. It’s hard enough for me – but the levels of vitriol and lies and awfulness in the beginning drove me quite literally insane. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I value my son having a good family unit over justifying myself to anonymous commenters on the internet, and any decent reasonable person would understand that.

  51. Just got to say that it’s not fair, but your one of the good guys and now that your out there you do stuff to make us better people and inspire others to do the same. They only do this stuff to scare people so that we will passively sleep walk into compliance, so the chances are if they are paying you this much attention you scare the living daylights out of the bad guys. Keep up the good work you are up there with Russell Brand & Owen Jones as people who make us take notice. Good advice by the way, I have signed change.org’s petition as I think that this type of poverty porn is sick. There are people dying from it for christ’s sake.

  52. If your opinion of the gutter press isn’t low enough, I’d just like to add that the invasion of privacy, fact free smearing, and worse, happens to the victims- and their neighbours, friends and families- of high profile crimes. People who not only didn’t ask for the attention, but are going through a horrible time already have to put up with this sort of vile behaviour.

  53. Thank you for talking about the Greater Reality of reality shows.

    Would you and a few friends consider having some groups/classes to teach people the skills to maximize the chances that the participants could work their way into an upward spiral? The group could network with each other and then also help to bring future groups of participants into the upward spiral.

    People could quickly learn some key techniques to save money such as frugal recipes and how to minimize electricity usage. Over time they could learn/teach each other skills that take more time to learn such as : additional cooking techniques, how to propagate herb cuttings, gardening, how to unravel a jumper for yarn and reknit it, mending, household repair, etc.

    And they could brainstorm ways each member could save, improve their situation…. With a group it is likely that someone else will know a strategy for whatever someone is struggling with.

    Also as people begin to work their way into a better life, they will be in a position to alert other group members to opportunities such as that the place they are now working is looking to hire an additional person.

    They can also create and share resources which is very empowering. For example if three people each get a thyme, sage, and rosemary plant respectively, over the next year they can probably share cuttings with at least 20 people in the group. The fourth person might share dill seeds. At the end of the year, 20 people might have each started with one herb and now all of them have 20 different ones.

    Other possibilities: sharing sourdough starter, handing down children’s clothes, book swaps. I also know of some school girls who decided to create groups according to clothing size. Then each girl in her size group bought a different dress to wear to the monthly dances. They chose dresses that were fairly classic, and nice, but not too memorable. Then each month they rotate the dresses. So every month they get to wear a new dress without having to buy a new one. Occasionally one needs mending, but they know how to do that. Also they have learned which types of clothes hold up better and take that into account now when they choose them. The girls are now creating a culture of frugality and creativity rather than consumption.

    Also as you pointed out in your post, it’s worthwhile to know how what you do can be twisted and how to avoid those things. If people think through their life as if they were running for a political office and everything that they do might be used against them by the opposition, they could avoid some pitfalls. However it is my experience that nice normal people such as are likely to be in an upward spiral type group are unlikely to come up with the more diabolical types of abuse that could be leveled at them, so it is helpful to have someone who has seen the incredible range of negative behavior to advise them. It helps to do this advance and create routines that are less able to be twisted. It gets rather tiring to always live your life as an outsider watching your life, but it is easier than the cleanup needed if you do things that can be easily twisted.

    An upward spiral group can not only lift the members, but pull in others who want to do the same and bring them into the spiral.

    And if all the group members determine not only to shine the light on what can be done but to *be* the light, there will steadily be a brighter future for all.

    For awhile I have been thinking of how Jack’s strategies for herself could be more generally applied without needing the exact set of amazing skills that she has and uses so well. And wished that there could be a sort of Upward Spiral University with Jack as a key professor. Given the reality show and Jack’s warning post, I thought I’d go ahead and post. I don’t know if Jack is interested in anything like this, or if she is, if it could be fitted into her overwhelming schedule. So I’ll throw the invitation to create groups like this in your area to everyone. Everyone has a few skills they could help others learn, or resources they could share. If you think you don’t consider that you know a blogger who has a bunch of tasty frugal recipes. So you could show people a way to eat frugally for 5-10 pounds a week. 🙂

    Band together. Create your own non-public reality show or Upward Spiral University where everyone has good chance of winning. Winners from the class of 2016 can multiply their winnings by passing along what they have learned to the class of 2017 and so forth.

    A fellow traveler for light and upward spirals,

    Sharon

  54. Jack when you touch a keyboard it’s pure genius. No question your work will outlive your critics. I sense a very positive happy successful future and you certainly deserve it!

  55. It isn’t always the case that people/families shown in this type of programme come off badly. Sometimes they can earn the viewers’ respect. This week one of the programmes depicted a family of parents with14 children living on benefits. Whilst I can’t honestly say that it is a good thing for taxpayers to have to support such large families,especially if they have chosen to limit the size of their own families to what they can afford,I have to say I ended up very impressed with the good job the parents were doing.The 8 – bed-roomed house was kept very clean and tidy. The children were clean,well-dressed,polite,regular at school,helpful and well-behaved in the house. Lovely kids,in fact.The parents were obviously feeding the children very well,providing good home-cooked food. A couple of the children had health problems and were clearly well-supported.All in all I thought the children were a credit to these parents,who were clearly devoted to their family,really working hard at home,even though they were not in paid employment. As the father said,when these children grow they are likely to be an asset to society.I was glad that I saw that programme because it left me with a very positive image of that big family. If any-one should have taxpayers’ money they should . But ,to put the cat among the pigeons,is it true of all?
    I think the important thing is for programme-makers to take a balanced stance. In nearly every programme I have seen there have been people clearly very deserving of our help and for whom one could only feel sympathy,especially young mothers struggling to bring up children on their own. The root of the problem for many struggling with poverty,is that their fathers are not stepping up to the plate. The tax-payers are not basically at fault but have to try to pick up the pieces.Fathers should be held more accountable and society as a whole should be much more condemnatory of men,or women for that matter,who don’t support their offspring. It isn’t just money that is lacking but the support and care and sense of security which two parents can give.

    Some of these programmes do serve a useful purpose in other ways. For example.having worked all my life and still working,I have never drawn any benefits except the Old Age Pension,so have had no idea how the system works. These programmes do expose some serious flaws in the current system. For example,the way in which claimants sometimes have to wait several weeks for the benefits to be paid and the way in which some ( not all) are penalised rather inflexibly for minor infringements of the rules.The system clearly needs revamping and programmes which put the benefit system’s failings under the microscope can be useful.

    However,Jack’s warning that potential participants should think carefully about so doing is very wise.I run a B&B and have been invited three times,by email, to put myself forward for the “Three (or is it four?) in a Bed”. I have too much sense to go down that route and get pulled to pieces.

  56. brilliant piece Jack; you are a fabulous writer it is just a shame that you have had to experience all this crap! i really dont think in this techno age we are evolving any longer why is it that we now belittle and attack anyone that makes something of themselves and it really annoys me when children are brought into it they didnt chose the paths their parents did children of public figures should be out of the media until such time as they are older or their parents put them in a film/ campaign etc -into the business as it were

  57. Just brilliant Jack. I so admire your willingness to stand up and be counted. Keep up the great work.

    PS I’d love to send to send you a bottle of champagne, or cava or prosecco if you prefer, but where to send it? The Guardian perhaps? Let me know!

    • Reading last night’s comment again, I can see that my words may have come across as a bit creepy. If they did, I’m truly sorry.

  58. Gotta wonder, what is gonna happen to the jobs these people are working at when they are picked for the show. That’s 25 jobs not being done where they either hire someone to fill in who doesn’t know if they’ll be there on week or several or they get the rest of the workers to pick up the slack – doesn’t seem to be a great working environment to come back to.

    Twenty-four people go back to work and face jokes like slacker, knew you were a lazy git etc. especially if several of their work colleges signed up for the show and weren’t picked. There will probably be no investigation as to why the workplaces are paying such crap wages but there will be the potential embarrassment for co-workers who will be shown in the background.

    The winner will earn enough money to screw up their benefits, have higher bills like council tax as they will no longer be eligible for the discount, might see a lot of money swallowed up by debt collectors or child support depending on their circumstances and will have to deal not only with the press induced image but may have to deal with jealous people expecting them to be putting on airs since they were on tv and they still wont have enough money to quit their crappy paying job (assuming they still have it) and if they are on a zero hour contract may find they never get hours again or shifts are cancelled last minute, ’cause I can’t see bosses being happy at the employee that highlights them as being the payer of some of the crappiest wages around.

    • I just wondered, Jack, what you would do differently, if you were doing all this again?

      I’m sure it is as grim as you say, and yet, if we do want our voice to be heard, and to influence in the way that we wish, I’m curious what works best.

  59. The Unemployed who are stupid enough to enter this will soon find themselves sanctioned by the DWP, is it worth definitely losing your benefits for the chance of a cash prize (that will be taken into account when reassessing you later anyway) …. stupid idea

  60. Dear Jack, I love the fact that you have just had a holiday. I love the fact that you are able to buy yourself a mulberry handbag and some Vivienne Westwood trousers. After all what would be the point of all your hard work if you can’t reap the rewards of your success. I don’t think that you will ever struggle again the way you did, you have come so far. The fact that you take nothing for granted is a credit to you, you appreciate all you have gained through your hard work. Head up and enjoy the fruits of your labour.

  61. Good post, it needed saying. I’ll take a guess that anyone who participates in this abusive freak show who is also claiming any type of benefit is going to find themselves on the end of the very worst the DWP/HMRC can do. It won’t matter how diligently, the participants have notified the DWP/HMRC, because the media will be desperate to single out anyone in the show and paint them as a fraudulent scrounger.

    Lives will be wrecked due to this appallingly crass programme.

  62. Reblogged this on glendrixglendenning1 and commented:
    This is NOT what the BBC should be carrying. Some might argue that it is just entertainment – BUT – it is “entertainment” that invites ridicule for vulnerable people. Basically the nature of this show, if it gets to air, runs entirely against the BBC charter. Watch out for the petition and campaign I intend, with help from friends, to get up and running soon.

  63. Hi Jack! I’m from the US so really don’t know what tv program this is referring to but it sounds awful! Brilliant post (and blog) and sorry that you have to endure such crap from people. Never really considered how the media could get inside your personal life and write lies about everything. Truly evil!!

  64. Every now and then I have a mild impulse to actually reply to folks who ask why I never never never watch what is ineptly called reality TV, particularly the kind with losers and losers and little chance of there being a so-called winner. This is strong, but it is why.

  65. Why Why your book is not translate in french. It’s too LONG, when i am not rich ! I don’t speak english et I can’t read your famous book. I patiently waited a year but nothing. Please, you must translate french your book, please. MERCI beaucoup et infiniment. Helene M.

  66. I’ve been following your blog for many years now and I think you’re great. Spend your money on whatever you want, knowing that it is no one else’s business, and enjoy the fruits of your labour! Ignore the haters and keep cooking and commenting. Much love from deepest, darkest Norfolk!

    • The other thing I quickly wanted to say was that I am in a similar position with my own mum – severe disability, now requiring round-the-clock care, and something I also don’t really like talking about, so I was sorry to read that you’ve had a difficult time and send you my biggest sympathies.

  67. Hi Jack, more wonderful stuff from you – remember that the people that support you outnumber the trolls 10 to 1 (this goes for anyone that’s been through any kind of this sort of shit), even if they are not commenting on it. So, I’m putting a comment on your blog every year or so to remind you. Much love from Prague. X

  68. So admiring that you remain generous and try to help even when it costs you so dear. I have fibro too – your Mum may be interested in the Foggy Friends site – mainly for ME sufferers and their families but many Fibro, CFS etc join in. It’s run by sufferers and arguments, unpleasant comments etc are not permitted because of the terrible physical effects emotional upsets can cause especially as (as I’m sure you know) sufferers of these kinds of illness can be especially sensitive. Obviously not something that the Telegraph bothered to research or possibly just doesn’t care about.

  69. The way they’re hounding after you is disgusting. You will never be poor enough for them to stop accusing you of hypocrisy, because they care more about tearing you down, and everything you stand for, than what your clothes really cost.
    If they really cared about the cost of your your Nice Things, they’d care about the time and opportunity costs you save by having them, or how many hours you worked to afford them, or the cost to the people who manufactured them.
    They know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
    All they want is to justify the poor being so utterly poor that they will begrudge them for even having a crumb to their name.

    They must be so terrified of you, or they wouldn’t be trying so desperately to discredit your good name.

    Jack Munroe, I admire you with all my heart and I love everything you are doing. Please don’t ever lose your fighting spirit in the face of so much injustice. Continue to use your voice and speak out about this exploitative media bulls__t.

    You are easily worth well over 20 quintillion of those gutter-press scumbags.

  70. I will, if that is ok with you, be printing this for my students to read during bookclub. I think it’s an important message and not just about this one show, but the world of instant fame we live in

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