Pastimes: Stella Creasy watches Love Island
In her occasional series, Rosamund Urwin meets up with parliamentarians to discuss how they unwind away from Westminster. Here, Stella Creasy settles down in front of her favourite TV show
Stella Creasy knew immediately that this was going to be a vintage season of Love Island. Before he had even entered the villa, contestant Dami Hope revealed that he had a heart-shaped birthmark in a most intimate place. “There was a collective reaction of: ‘I’m sorry, what now?’’’ Creasy laughs. “I thought then it’d be jaw-dropping. Last year was a bit ‘meh’, but this year I’m back into it, big style.”
Creasy, 45, Labour MP for Walthamstow in east London, feels no embarrassment about loving the ITV reality series. It’s escapism, respite from the stresses of Westminster, and she dislikes the disdain some people show towards the programme. “People are snobby about good-quality, mainstream TV,” she argues. “They think it perhaps makes them morally superior. But it’s well thought out, there’s brilliant casting, and they give you the drama every day. Plus Iain Stirling’s voice-over makes it, like Terry Wogan and Eurovision.”
The show has started debates about controlling relationships and age gaps
This season has been especially dramatic. After the women were sent to a different villa for a few days, “the men went feral”; a female contestant, Ekin-Su, has “brought chaos” and the show has started debates about controlling relationships and age gaps. “It’s all to the good if these conversations are happening as a result,” adds Creasy. “And you can watch that biggest and most basic of human things forming: connection.”
Past seasons have brought feminist moments, she notes. First there was 2017 contestant Camilla Thurlow, a land mine clearer who was dumped soon after she revealed she was a feminist, only to end up with a Calvin Klein model (Jamie Jewitt). “She stood up for herself to this guy, and then later on Jamie and Camilla were recreating the lift from Dirty Dancing in the pool while the guy who dumped her looked on, eating Pringles in his pants,” Creasy recalls. Another of her favourite contestants was 2019’s Maura Higgins, who fought back with wit when a suitor was crude about her.
If the producers are looking for a high-profile contestant for next season, they should call Creasy. “I’d be there like a shot,” she says. “It looks like a cracking place to live. But would I want to compete on national TV to find love? No. But then I was terrible at finding love; dating was never my forte at any age.” Creasy, who has been with her partner Dan Fox for 14 years, says she has only ever been on one date, as a teenager, and “ran away in the middle of a shopping centre because I felt so awkward”.
Is one reason Love Island appeals that she’s personally relieved to be free from the awkward dance between the sexes it shows? “No. Isn’t the awful truth that as you get older, relationships don’t get easier, they just evolve?” she asks. “It’s still ‘I’ve got a text!’ Only it’s from the childminder going: ‘where are you?’”
Fox and Creasy sometimes watch the show together, but mostly – due to Parliament’s long hours – she watches it on her phone during breaks or on catch-up. She and Lucy Powell, the shadow culture secretary, message each other about plot developments: “We’re vying to be [politics’] biggest Love Island fans. We have to text each other: ‘No spoilers!’ when one of us is behind.”
There’s a vicarious element to Creasy’s enjoyment too: “with two children under three, I don’t get out much”. Motherhood has inspired her current campaign, however, MotheRED, which aims to help more women with children go into politics. Hybrid voting would help, Creasy argues: “If online voting is good enough for Love Island, it’s good enough for legislation.”
Rosamund Urwin is a journalist with The Sunday Times
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