Meet the couch councillor: Gogglebox star Josh Tapper wants your vote

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Meet the couch councillor: Gogglebox star Josh Tapper wants your vote

Best known as a sofa critic on Channel 4’s show, Josh Tapper now has political ambitions

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Josh Tapper (right) on Gogglebox
Josh Tapper (right) on Gogglebox

It’s 10 years since a large proportion of UK telly watchers first watched then teenager Josh Tapper, his dad Jonathan, his mum Nikki, and his sister Amy on Channel 4’s Gogglebox. Their hilarious banter and sheer love for each other was infectious. That was then…

Now ex-Rosh Pinah Primary School and Yavneh College pupil Josh, 24, has set his sights on a rather di­fferent role. Having quit Gogglebox in 2017 to join a Civil Service apprenticeship scheme, in the forthcoming local elections he is standing as a Labour Party candidate for Edgwarebury, the ward in which he grew up.

Josh’s great-great grandpa, Morris Bloom, came to the UK from what is now Lithuania, and founded the well-known kosher deli eaterie Blooms in Brick Lane, London’s East End. It was passed down through the family and, when Josh was young, his father ran the Golders Green branch of the restaurant.

“I’ve got such fond memories of Sunday lunches when I was child,” recalls Josh. “I was too young to enjoy the salt beef sandwiches, but I loved the schnitzels!” Blooms gave Josh his first experience of campaigning for change. “I was instrumental in making sure we got spaghetti bolognese on the kids’ menu at Blooms,” he says, with a big smile.

Josh speaks fondly of his childhood days in Edgware, where he still resides today. Alongside his father, he was a regular at Edgware United Synagogue. “Jewish identity is still very important to me,” he says.

“We keep kosher at home, and when out. We do Friday night dinner every week – it’s a big part of my identity, friends and family coming together.” Viewers of Gogglebox – during which the Tapper family stayed on our screens for five years and tallied up a total of 11 series – got their own glimpse of Josh’s parents. But it’s still amusing to hear his assessment of his mum – who runs the nursery at Sinai Jewish Primary School – and his dad.

Josh pictured outside Rosh Pinah Primary School

“My dad is a very relaxed person; my mum is slightly louder,” he observes. “Anyone who has watched us on TV will know mum is not quiet! She’s very chatty, and she knows everyone. I don’t want to say dad’s a pushover, but my mum definitely wears the trousers.”

Nikki had dabbled in appearing on reality TV shows and when the family was notified of a newly-created show named Gogglebox, they jumped at the chance to be involved. “We had to do a casting session,” Josh says of the first audition. “They pulled out pictures of celebrities and other events from that time and we just had to talk. I was 15, my sister was 13. It all felt very exciting.”

Anyone who has watched us on TV will know mum is not quiet! She’s very chatty, and she knows everyone. I don’t want to say dad’s a pushover, but my mum definitely wears the trousers

After the four weeks of series one, they were invited to do a second series, and this time they were commissioned for 13 episodes. “Then Gogglebox blew up out of nowhere,” he says. “I spent the next five years living that life while also trying to live a normal life. But I was the guy who was on TV.

“My days were long as we were filming the scenes in addition to school. We were spending a lot more time as a family on a sofa than we were used to. That was nice in many respects – but we often argued, too!” Josh laughs as he remembers how his family made the Gogglebox crew adapt to their traditional Jewish lifestyle as they filmed them at home.

“We tried to stay clear of filming on Friday nights, but the schedule meant we had to do a few,” he recalls. “There was an agreement that if we did have to do Fridays we had to break for dinner. We introduced the crew to Kiddush, challah, chicken soup, egg and onion and chopped liver.

“As the only traditional Jewish family on the show, it felt like we were representing the entire community at times,” says Josh. When Pesach came around, the crew were warned not to bring their own food into the Tapper’s home.

The crunch point for Josh came as he took his A-levels, while still a Gogglebox star. Despite being academically bright, he had never excelled at exams. A place at Birmingham University was a distinct prospect if he felt at ease with exam conditions, but he didn’t. Instead, he explored the prospect of a Civil Service apprenticeship, open to non-graduates, which o­ffered similar chances of progression to those attainable for university students.

“It opened my eyes to the opportunities apprenticeships can provide,” he says. “I’ve been back to Yavneh to give talks to inspire others to take this option if they don’t want to go to university.”

Josh as he is today

Josh was taken on by the Civil Service and worked across the Cabinet Office and No 10. He was exposed to high-profile work and people and learnt a lot about what goes on in government. He says the Civil Service should be a force for good that isn’t political. But in 2019, he found his political views coming to the fore and, to his family’s surprise, left the Civil Service to join the cross-party think tank and research outfit Demos. He also joined the Labour Party when Sir Keir Starmer became leader.

While there is “still work to be done” around eradicating antisemitism, he says the party now is incomparable to that under Jeremy Corbyn. I ask why he thinks he would make a good local councillor. “I’ve lived in Edgware all of my life,” he says. “I go to synagogue in the ward and I understand the issues the community faces, like fixing potholes, boosting our economy, issues such as green spaces and local parks. These are really important to me. “I will listen to the community and work with them to try to make things a little better.”

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