What can people expect from the show if they’ve not caught it yet?
It’s an eye-opening look at what baby boomers are really like. My job was to investigate punk rockers. I met Charlie Harper, who is 73 and leader of the UK Subs, a punk band he founded in the 1970s. I ended up with pink hair and recorded a song with him. It went ‘boom boom boom, I don’t want to die’ and I had to shout ‘Alzheimer’s! Care homes!’ in the chorus. I couldn’t stop laughing.
Did you enjoy yourself?
Hugely. The other part of the show was investigating dating websites for older people with Johnny Ball. If you Google ‘granny dating’ some really gruesome stuff comes up.
Were you a punk fan in the 1970s?
In the 1970s I was busy getting elected to the council in Birmingham and having babies. I’m a 1960s chick and grew up with The Beatles. I sometimes go to concerts. We went to see a Simon And Garfunkel tribute band who were very good.
There has been criticism of the baby-boomer generation for having it too easy…
There has been a lot of stuff about how we’re being selfish but we worked bloody hard for it. I’ve been working from the age of 15, worked through university, and we experienced real austerity — there was rationing until I was nine years old and we grew up being worried about financial security. So there’s money in the pension fund and the mortgage has been paid. It’s a generation that knows what hard slog is all about. If you read Alan Johnson’s books about being a postman it shows it was hard graft. And we didn’t go to Prague for the weekend. We didn’t go on holiday to Thailand — we didn’t even know where Thailand was. Also, we’re likely to need to be able to pay for care, which is expensive. The older generation own a lot of assets but it didn’t happen by accident. it happened by hard work and self-denial.
But zero-hours contacts weren’t around in previous years…
Of course they were, they just weren’t called that. It’s a very familiar pattern of working. It’s not so much things like that, it’s that prudence, living frugally and saving are now sneered at.
Would you want to stand for election again?
No. I’ve been there and done that. If you’re going to serve your constituency properly, you have to put in long hours. I don’t want to do that any more. It’s a job for younger people. But I still talk about politics on radio and TV so I haven’t left it altogether.
Has politics got more showbiz since you were an MP?
No, it was always showbiz. The House of Commons was theatre in the days of Charles I. The House of Commons at its best is grand theatre where great issues of life and death are pursued and debated with strict rules of procedure, which ensure courtesy even if there is hatred or fear seething under the surface. It’s one of the greatest institutions in the world.
What was your proudest political achievement?
One was bringing in screening for breast cancer and cervical cancer. Both have saved many thousands of lives. The other was getting involved in gay rights in 1994. I hate discrimination and the law should treat everyone fairly. Various gay friends asked if I’d take up the cause — as a woman and mother of daughters they felt I wouldn’t be subject to as much criticism. It was the first time we debated gay rights in the House of Commons for 25 years and we got the age of consent down from 21 to 18.
You had a soft spot for Jake Quickenden in I’m A Celebrity. Are you still in touch?
We keep in touch on social media. I try to make friends when I do shows like that — it would be unbearable otherwise and there are people you get to know who you’d never usually meet. On I’m A Celebrity, me and Tinchy Stryder discovered we were the only graduates on the show. And he spent hours educating me about his type of pop music — I was up to Dizzee Rascal when he left.
Anyone you’d be happy never to see again?
John McCririck. We did Celebrity Wife Swap. My husband was convinced I’d be swapped with Katie Price so he was very disappointed.
The Baby Boomer’s Guide To Growing Old is on C4 on Tuesdays at 10pm