Last Night’s TV – The Duchess on the Estate

the duchess on the estate

Worried about being gunned down in the street? Victim of petty crime and inner city poverty? Well, fear no more because Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York is the answer. Yes that’s right. A visit from the good lady toting a camera crew will sort out all that ghastly violent death and poverty nonsense.

As the Duchess told us in last night’s programme, “I inspire people to get on and do things by rallying the troops. I’m an enabler. What saved people after the blitz was a cup of tea and a biscuit.”

So there you are. The answer to your inner city urban decay worries is a cup of tea and a biscuit. So next time you encounter someone who’s trying to mug you at knifepoint, simply smile, keep a stiff upper lip and invite him/her round for tea and a bourbon. Problem solved.

Condescending much?

And when first encountering the housing estate and general area where she was to get them all to jolly well buck up, the Duchess said, “It’s got an air of misery…”

No shi* Sherlock… that’s because it is miserable. One in five are unemployed, teenagers are terrorising everybody, crime is rife as is drug abuse, alcoholism, obesity and poverty. So yes, an “air of misery” it does indeed have. But by jove, not for long because clearly, what these chaps need is a cup of tea and a good canter on their horse. That’ll cure ’em.

I don’t doubt Sarah Ferguson’s intentions are good, I truly don’t, but the fact of it is, she doesn’t have a Scooby what it’s like to actually live like that, day in day out for all of your life. It’s all very well to have her drop in and issue forth platitudes and “rally the troops” but she doesn’t have to live on a pittance and she doesn’t have to live in fear of walking outside her door at night. And she never will.

The thing that really bugs me though about celebrities who turn up to “do some good” is that they seem to think just their presence is enough. And they always, but always, state the glaringly obvious. In this case it was how dangerous guns and knives are. I’m sure that hadn’t occurred to anyone before the Duchess brought it up.

It’s like the cagillions of celebs who’ve boldly gone where cagillions of others have, to places like Ethiopia – yes they can sympathise and turn a tear stained face to camera demanding action, but they can’t truly know what it’s like to live there, therefore, their input is at best a clarion call for donations. Ditto the Duchess’s attempts at finding answers to the problems in Wythenshawe. She can spectate and orate all she wants, it won’t change a damn thing.

Her telling a group of young people how the British values of community spirit and improving upon their grammar can save them from a life of crime and general unpleasantness is about as much use as piles to a jockey. Ditto her conclusion that what’s needed is a community centre. Does she honestly think nobody’s thought of that or tried that already?

We also saw the Duchess trekking around Wythenshawe at night which, had she not had a camera crew and a truckload of security people might perhaps have been considered brave and/or foolhardy, but she did, so yet again, she can’t know the reality of being a pensioner who’s afraid to go to the shops at night without an entourage.

Not even one of the great unwashed proletariat types is going to stab a well known royal, nor would they offer her a £10 wrap. I’d have been infinitely more impressed if she’d had one of her make-up people do that transformation magic they do with latex and glue and had her act and dress like an old lady and while being filmed from afar. Then she would truly have understood what it’s like to feel vulnerable and afraid.

She means well, of that there’s no doubt, but as far as I was concerned while watching this show, she came across as condescending and patronising with a penchant for over-simplifying the problems that people on this estate live with. And let’s not forget her talent at stating the obvious.

Their problems are not going to be solved by the liberal application of tea and biscuits, nor will they be solved by someone who can have no true understanding of their issues telling them how they should live and what they should spend their money on. Nor will they improve by brushing up their grammar or having a Vera Lynn attitude, and telling them that it will was the albeit well intentioned equivalent of patting them on the head and giving them a farthing before sending them back off to the workhouse.

The thing that irks me is that the Duchess is arrogant enough to believe she can make a difference just by being there and pointing out the glaringly obvious. Unless she’s got a spare few million to throw at the project to get better housing, better education and more policing, anything she says or does is, at best, lip service.

Fergie can never be anything other than the stereotype; she’s posh, she’s rich, and no amount of getting her manicured hands dirty among the masses will make her anything other. I really think she should just stop trying to convince us she’s just like us and really rather ordinary. She’s not and she never will be which is why her lofty advice and sweeping generalisations came across as utterly patronising and worthless.

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.