So it begins again. The annoying and the terminally needy. And that’s just Ant and Dec. Then there are the contestants. The very loosely titled celebs in I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! ITV’s annual bingefest of sadism.
People you’ve never heard of. People you think you might have heard of. People you’ve heard of and wish you hadn’t. All human dysfunction is here. An orgy of narcissism. This year capped off by the presence of Nigel Farage.
Almost every year we get one politician. Either hoping to kickstart a new career or fun-wash a reputation. To prove that they are a decent sport after all. Not that the public generally cares one way or the other.
Last year it was Matt Hancock. Desperate to reinvent himself after being sacked as health secretary for breaking the lockdown rules by being caught groping his lover on CCTV.
Hancock said he hoped the public would get to know the real him. But if they did, then they still didn’t like him. Day after day, they exacted their punishment by voting for him to do a bushtucker trial. Until they eventually got bored with it and took their cruelty elsewhere.
Matt came third, mainly because people forgot to vote him off the show. They thought he was an idiot at the start of the show. And they thought he was an idiot at the end.
Now the stakes have been raised. Farage is a different order of politician. Not some hapless moron who was promoted well above his skill level. Farage is the populist par excellence.
A man who has traded on his man-of-the-people casual xenophobia. One of the main architects of Brexit. Probably one of the most divisive figures of the century so far. You have to wonder what ITV thinks it is doing giving him a platform. To normalise the abhorrent.
Farage has laughed off his appearance. It’s all about the money, he has said. ITV has paid him a reported show record of £1.5m. Enough to make Coutts think again. He’s also said he’s been asked several times before, but now he has a slot in his diary. I’m sure he does.
We live in such weird times that this year’s I’m a Celebrity … is virtually the start of the next-but-one Tory leadership race. With Nigel lining up a return to the party if all goes well – to take over once Suella Braverman or whoever inevitably crashes and burns when Rishi Sunak goes.
Ant and Dec kicked off with a semi apology for Farage – though more joke than proper embarrassment. It’s all about the ratings, darling. They were sorry that the viewers would be missing Farage’s show on GB News. That’s Keith and Linda. Cue the first correction. Chris would also want to be included.
Then off to the outback where two people I’d never heard of – Nella and Josie – were dropped off with Farage, dressed in pastel shades like a Michael Portillo tribute act. Nella and Josie didn’t seem to know who he was either. Or if they did, they kept it quiet.
Nige spoke to camera. “I’m a villain to some, a hero to others,” he said. “I’m here to find the real me.” I doubt that. His ability to smile for the cameras when privately spitting tacks precedes him. He claimed not to want arguments to simmer. Oh bless! He’s only built an entire political career on imagined grievances.
The rest was all pretty standard. Farage, Nella and Josie were all made to do a trial in a burnt-out camper van. One that was predictably full of snakes that took one look at Nige and scarpered. They ended up with Farage taking charge of the show – it’s what he always does – and winning six stars.
Cut to four helicopters flying low over the Gold Coast and depositing four more Celebs on to the roof of a high-rise building. Welcome Fred Sirieix, Grace Dent and two more people I didn’t recognise – Sam and Danielle.
Sam rushed up to Fred and said: “I’m a huge fan.” Fred just nodded. He seems to think everyone is his fan. But hard not to root for him. Fred is on record as hating Farage and hating Brexit. This could get interesting later.
Several trials and three more introductions later – Jamie Lynn Spears was under the impression she was best known as an actor rather than Britney’s sister – all 10 celebs were finally in the jungle. Sam rushed up to Nige. “Mate,” he cooed. Sam is a friend of everyone. Sam, it’s safe to say, is a halfwit.
Farage was all reptilian smiles. Searching for the charm button. Searching for the hero inside himself – the artifice there for all to see. He said it was like a camping adventure. Not that he had ever been on one. He grinned when he was voted to do the next bushtucker trial. In world saviour mode.
Fred and Grace kept their distance. Let’s hope they are only biding their time. A nation expects.