Fay Jones is MP for Brecon & Radnorshire.
I am Bridget Jones.
No really, I am. Aged 13, I bought a copy of Bridget Jones’s Diary in W.H Smith in Cardiff. I started reading it on the train home and, by the next day, I had made a friend who would stay with me for the rest of my life.
As I grew up and went to university, I typified Bridget’s behaviours – obsessed with my weight, white wine, cigarettes, bad men and bad decisions. Now in my mid-30s and a Member of Parliament, some of those habits have gone though, like Bridget, the odd mishap cannot be ruled out….
But much as I would like to claim her, I am one of billions of women worldwide to recognise myself in Bridget. This is the sheer genius of Bridget Jones and her creator, Helen Fielding. Bridget Jones is a universal figure that so many can identify with.
This week, in Being Bridget Jones, the BBC has produced a documentary looking back at the 25 years since the publication of the original novel. The programme’s talking heads featured fans of the novel – Ayesha Hazarika, Cherie Blair and Jess Phillips– who read aloud from their favourite passages. Three well-known, brilliant left-wing women: a Labour MP, a Labour Party adviser and a highly successful QC, who is also married to a former Labour Prime Minister.
I wouldn’t try to argue that Bridget herself is free of politics. She voted Labour. In the second book, Bridget talks about her joy in the Labour landslide in 1997. But a memorable scene from the second book proves my point, when Bridget realises that her boyfriend, Mark Darcy, votes Conservative:
“So I vote Tory, what’s wrong with that?” he said, staring at me incredulously. “What do you vote?” he said.
“Labour, of course,” I hissed. “Everybody votes Labour.”
“Well I think that’s patently been proved not to be the case, so far,” he said.
This is what’s wrong with the BBC. So obsessed with its own worldview that it pigeon-holes its audience. Despite a clear election result just over twelve months ago, it views the country as left-wing. In making this programme, it must have thought that no one with political views right of the centre would want to watch a programme about one of the most popular works of fiction in the twentieth century. Did they think we wouldn’t notice?
Watching Being Bridget Jones and feeling my disappointment gather, I messaged my WhatsApp group of female Conservative MPs. Cue a blizzard of similar messages – each of us with stories of adoring the books and films as teenagers, and carrying the lessons of Bridget into later life. Just like millions of women across the country who – believe it or not – vote Conservative.
The BBC cannot have it both ways. You cannot express a fervent need for ‘balance’ on pressing day to day political issues, but ignore a big slice of the country when you make a documentary about a popular novel. It’s time for the BBC to accept that the centre right is not a fringe minority. We are normal, average and mainstream – and we love Bridget Jones just as much as the next woman.
Bridget Jones’s Diary belongs to everyone. So should the BBC.