Grant Shapps recently delighted Beatles devotees by announcing – in a blizzard of punnery – the preservation of the council house that Ringo Starr grew up in. It’s not known if the housing minister has ever set foot inside a council house let alone lived in one, but here are six MPs who certainly have. As always it’s your job to guess the odd one out.
1 David Davis
The former Territorial Army soldier and death penalty fan grew up on a council estate in Tooting, London. The hard-right Tory has often spoken of his experiences living on the estate, usually around the “I rose up and conquered” theme so beloved of upward mobility and meritocracy fantasists. Oddly enough, the Davis household was a hotbed of communist activity – his grandfather was disinherited from a large fortune because of his Bolshevik babblings. Of his days on the estate, Davis says: “Everybody knew and looked out for one another which seemed to inspire a genuine community spirit.” The Big Society in action?
2 Frank Dobson
The bearded Labour stalwart got a gunging from the press when it was revealed that he was living in a council house despite his £66,000 MPs wages. The one time health secretary defended living in the property by stating that he couldn’t afford to rent privately, a claim met with hoots of derision in the media. A lover of transparency, Dobson robustly supported blocking revelations of MPs’ expenses, presumably on the grounds that he didn’t want to get rumbled.
3 Alan Milburn
The turncoatish left-winger grew up on a council estate in a small village in Durham. Noted for his uber-smooth PR skills during the Blair years, Milburn agreed to assist the coalition government as an adviser, becoming its ‘social mobility tsar’. Needless to say, the move drew venom from Milburn’s socialist pals, with the mistress-loving Lord Prescott, no less, chastising the man for his perceived shabby and deplorable behaviour.
4 George Osborne
The Chancellor of the Exchequer may be a millionaire these days, but things weren’t always so easy for the Oxford-educated cost cutter. Osborne’s is an incredible rags-to-riches tale. Raised on the tough Alan Bennett council housing estate in Smethwick, he spent the first nine years of his life living, in his words, “hand to mouth and in constant fear of poor people”. He once recalled to journalists how a post office stickup left the family bereft of their weekly benefits. Penniless and starving, the Osbornes were forced to eat their stock of candles – their only source of light. It was in the pitch gloom of those terrible days that the future Chancellor claims he “saw the light” that the UK “would fail to meet its 2011 growth target of 1.7 percent”.
5 Sadiq Khan
The Tooting MP grew up in a council flat on the Henry Prince Estate in Earlsfield, and became only the second ever Muslim to hold a cabinet position when Gordon Brown made him a Minister for Communities and Local Government in 2008. Another victim of the expenses scandal, Khan got into a minor pickle for claiming expenses on birthday and Christmas cards he’d sent out to constituents. It is unknown whether the MP has ever run on the slogan “Yes we Khan”.
6 Emily Thornberry
On a recent episode of the BBC squabble-fest Question Time, the current Shadow Attorney General exploded in outrage at maudlin and ever-fuming hack Peter Hitchens’ suggestion that fatherless households on benefits were ‘problem families’. The frenzied MP proudly defended her council house upbringing and hammered the Sunday Mail scribbler for his remarks. An unperturbed Hitchens simply stared back and dismissed the rant as “pathetic rubbish”.
7 Nadine Dorries
The John Bercow-hating right-winger spent her formative years on a Liverpool council estate in a home her parents would eventually snap up as part of Thatcher’s Right to Buy revolution. Dorries recently turned on her masters, messrs Cameron and Osborne, calling them “arrogant posh boys”. The comments, along with a barrage of general right-wing frippery, don’t seem to have damaged her career, with many, including the Daily Mail, seeing her as a ‘true Tory’. n
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Number 4 is sheer fiction. During these dark days, George Osborne simply took the silver spoon from his mouth and sold it. He has never eaten candles.