Vote for Me
Mentorn for ITV1, 10 to 14 January 2005 (5 episodes in 1 series)
Seven would-be politicians (boo! hiss!) are tested on "a variety of tasks relevant to political life". And you can phone in to vote one off each night. But unfortunately, not all seven. Cynical? Us?
Of course, it's ever so easy to be cynical, especially when there's so much to be cynical about. Such as the fact that ITV1 collapsed its planned series into five nights. Were they trying to make it more of an event? Or did they simply foresee the outcome, of which more later?
It started out quite promisingly, with the "auditions" show whittling down 60 hopefuls to seven. As in Pop Idol and its clones, those turned away in the early stages proved to include some of the series' most memorable characters, such as the lady campaigning for legalised brothels (who took her top off before sidling up to the judges) and The Man With The Guitar, who had a guitar.
Once the final seven were announced, things started moving quickly, too quickly in fact. The programme had promised something beyond the usual superficial political coverage, and it certainly crammed a lot in, but with a half-hour show each night, to include the candidates giving their pitch and being grilled by the judges, plus a filmed task, the phone vote itself and an ad break, there wasn't much time to go into depth on anything. Not only did the candidates get little time to shine (or wilt, for that matter), but the discussion of what makes a good and/or successful politician was almost entirely sidelined. An interview with both Martin Bell and Richard Taylor, the most recent independent MPs, was cut down to a line from each of them. [For the record, Taylor was not in fact an independent MP, but rather the sole MP for Independent Kidderminster Hospital & Health Concern - Ed.] The filmed tasks (doorstep canvassing, meeting the press, facing a radio phone-in) whizzed by, leaving little impression of who did well or badly in them.
At the end of each show, the candidate with the fewest votes was eliminated (ITV operate a strictly One Viewer, As Many Votes As You're Prepared To Pay For, Last Past The Post system). If Vote for Me's self-selecting sample of voters followed the usual pattern of people who took part in telephone opinion polls, then it was likely to come down to a head-to-head between Rodney Hylton-Potts with his anti-immigration platform, and Eileen O'Connor, a campaigner against mobile phone masts. And so it proved, with Hylton-Potts coming out the winner. The judges had heavily criticised him throughout the week (even Kelvin MacKenzie considered him too extreme), and by the end even the writer of the updates on the ITV website seemed to be straining to distance themselves from the result.
So what became of the winner? After winning the series, he registered the party name "Get Britain Back" and stood in the general election in Folkestone & Hythe, the constituency then held by Michael Howard (Conservative). And the outcome... well, after the 2005 general election it was still held by Michael Howard (Conservative), while Rodney Hylton-Potts came seventh out of nine candidates and lost his (or rather, ITV PLC's) deposit. (Full result here)
ITV Vote for Me page (archive.org copy)
Weaver's Week 24 April 2004 - reaction to the original announcement of the show.
Weaver's Week 16 January 2005 - review.