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Campaign Diary: John Meets Joey

14/04/2015 08:43 BST | Updated 13/06/2015 10:59 BST

Nice guy, Joey Essex. Modest too, or at least he gave a convincing impression of being an unpretentious Essex-boy when he turned up for a chat on my Sunday morning radio programmePienaar's Politics.

No small feat, considering the star of the hit reality show The Only Way is Essex (TOWIE) was surrounded by a small army of camera operators, producers, fixers, publicists and, for all I know, food tasters and hair-gel bearers , when he joined my guests and me in the studio and talked politics for 15 minutes.

The MPs were plainly star-struck, particularly Priti Patel, the Conservative treasury minister and Essex MP seeking re-election, who'd seized on my invitation to come in, and maybe take part in his ITV documentary Educating Joey Essex, in which he tours the country and meets prominent politicians as part of his quest to explore British politics. Perhaps she was persuaded by my suggestion that appearing with the Essex icon might just go down well with her constituents ("can't wait"), and even catapult her career to the level of leadership contention ("no comment").

It's still in the making, obviously, but I had the impression the show might end up an depicting a disarmingly innocent and curious Joey meeting a succession of worldly, clever, sharp politicians; all of them keen to be liked, and all more or less bewildered by their exposure to an (extra)ordinary member of the public. Joey mistook the title of the Liberal Democrats, for example. He called them the "Liberal Demo-cats", and remarked on their weirdly feline name. I'm not making this up. The TOWIE star is plainly unburdened by knowledge, but also rather likably untouched by cynicism.

The leaders he met all seemed to strike him as "decent blokes". These won't include David Cameron, who is fighting a risk averse campaign, but who also saw the risks in accepting the invitation. Joey handled rejection gracefully. "I really did want to meet him but it's not happening. I'm a bit gutted but he's a busy man, just like every other MP. It would have been just nice because I've met everyone else." It was nicely put and I felt almost sorry for him, but couldn't help feeling that he'd skilfully made his point, and knew it was likely to be picked up by the papers. Which it has been.

Joey's appearance on my show had a mixed reception. "He needs to go back to school," was one tweeters verdict. Many, many others favourite and retweeted the news he was on air. I was under strict instructions to obtain his autograph for my daughters.

The politicians in the studio, whatever they may have thought privately, fell over themselves to get onto Joey's good side. When the show airs, I wonder whom viewers will judge more sympathetically, Joey or the politicos; with whom will most people choose to identify? Given the mood of general disdain for our politics and politicians, my money's on Joey.

As for the campaign, its manifesto week. A succession of live broadcasts in cramped radio cars in car parks up and down the country beckon. Labour comes first, all fiscal rectitude. They are daring to believe they have gained the upper hand in this campaign, as time runs out for the Conservatives to achieve the "crossover" in the polls they are waiting and praying for.

Labour's big media event will establish the tonal role reversal, the fiscal cross-dressing, that'll be continued by the Conservatives a day later. The Tories have been warning us against the danger of electing a brother-backstabbing Labour leader bent on wrecking the British economy, and a Labour Party eyeing a sordid relationship with the Scottish Nationalists. The Conservative's campaigning this weekend, though, was bathed in sweetness and light. Billions more for the NHS, and no death duty on the family home up to £1million in value.

Along with a travelling caravan of Westminster lobby hacks, I'll be asking where Labour will find the spending cuts - or tax increases - that will be needed to wipe out the spending deficit, albeit at a much slower rate than the Conservatives. From the Tories, how will the fund the £8bn extra they're promising the NHS by 2020? Ukip, the Greens and the Lib Dems are waiting their turn. By the end of the week, I'll have swallowed almost as much spin as lukewarm coffee. I expect I will get about as many meaningful answers on my tour of the country, as Joey Essex gets on his. But that's politics. And show business.

Watch John explain hung parliaments to Joey.