As the latest series of I’m A Celeb kicks off, backlash continues to grow following the inclusion of far right UK politician and GB News presenter Nigel Farage – with viewers calling for a boycott of the show over his “vile and offensive rhetoric”.
The 23rd series of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! began on Sunday (19 November), with stars such as Sam Thompson, Marvin Humes and Jamie Lynn Spears entering the jungle. But even before this year’s outing of the ITV reality show hit screens, it faced intense scrutiny for including Farage in the line up – a year after Matt Hancock likewise used the show to sanitise his image at lightning speed.
That is not to mention the eye-watering, alleged £1.5 million fee he has been paid to appear. That juicy sum comes, of course, just months after Farage was embroiled in a highly publicised debanking battle with Coutts.
His inclusion in I’m a Celeb is juxtaposed against fluffy TV personalities and presenters, actors and a YouTuber, pushing the idea to the public that he – too – belongs in the light entertainment wheelhouse, aired on cosy Sunday evenings with the curtains drawn and heating on.
Unlike the micro celebs which populate the line-up every year, Farage is different in the sense that what he has said and done – and what he will continue to say and do – has a real-life impact on Britain and its people.
Perhaps it was the success of Hancock’s venture into British humiliation television that finally enticed Farage to strike a deal with the show’s producers, as he has reportedly been approached by ITV multiple times.
“In the jungle you’re going to find the real me. You might like me more, you might dislike me more, but you will at least find out,” he told viewers, channelling a cheeky-chappy-man-of-the-people persona to people who very well could be potential voters and supporters.
“The best way to handle conflict is to tackle it head-on. I dealt with snakes in the European Parliament, I can cope with this too.”
Nigel Farage has followed Matt Hancock in going into the jungle Carl Court/Getty Images)
On social media and the legacy press, the backlash to Farage appearing on the show has been swift and unrelenting with “#BoycottImACeleb” making the top trending spot on X – the platform formerly known as Twitter – in the UK following the first episode on Sunday evening.
“There’s a handful of people who I squarely blame for the demise of our country over the past ten years, one of them is Nigel Farage,” one social media user wrote, “Sticking him on a nightly game show is glorifying him and creating the impression that he’s a cuddly celebrity. He isn’t.”
Commenting on his appearance, the Mirror’s assistant editor Darren Lewis did not hold back on lambasting ITV for platforming Farage’s views, musing if they would next invite Tommy Robinson or have even approached Enoch Powell or Oswald Moseley – if the pair were still alive.
“For the ITV show, it seems no public figure is too controversial, too off limits, too distasteful or too beyond the pale. No boundary of taste and decency is too sacrosanct to breach,” he wrote in an op-ed.
“It seems obvious what I’m A Celebrity represents for Farage: a spell in reputational rehab; a litmus test of his popularity,” The Guardian’s Barbara Ellen also wrote.
“Farage, recently seen paddling in the backwaters of the Conservative party conference, is thought to be launching a political comeback. Travelling to Australia for I’m A Celebrity, he spoke of ‘a big young audience out there worth talking to’.
“It appears the well-known adage needs updating: now showbiz is politics for ugly people.”
And just one episode into the series, it seems Farage’s goal of reconstructing his image as a “nice guy”, like Hancock, is in full swing.
He happily threw himself into the grotesque tasks, smiling like a cheery, bumbling uncle who gets roped into taking part in the dunking tank at the school fete.
Unlike the former health secretary, Farage did not seem to get the same frosty reception from his campmates, with Josie Gibson saying it “can’t be worse than Brexit – only joking!” and Ant and Dec making a light gibe at his politics whilst he was driving during a trial: “Did he veer off a bit too far to the right?”.
Farage’s views have been extremely controversial (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
A Eurosceptic and key architect of Brexit, Farage has long been a controversial figure in British politics for his far-right views on immigration, refugees, multiculturalism and political correctness, which he would obviously now label as ‘wokeness’.
Farage’s public record is littered with contentious moments which have been accused of stoking hate between communities and encouraging xenophobia – for his own political gain.
In the past, Farage has expressed support for Enoch Powell, said he feels uncomfortable listening minority communities speak in their own language, used language relating to anti-sementic conspiracy theories, claimed climate change is a scam and said people living with HIV should not be able to enter the UK.
Whilst the British public will no doubt enjoy seeing Farage chow down on kangaroo testicles, fish eyes and insect smoothies, if he can pull off this come back, it’ll him having the last laugh, no doubt.