WWhen he walks in, I’m a celebrity… Get me out of here! this weekend, Nigel Farage will be stranded in the middle of the Australian outback before likely being subjected to a series of grueling bush trials, including eating animal testicles and getting up close and personal with creepy crawlies.
The former UKIP and Brexit party leader’s inclusion in the ITV reality show has divided fans – with some even threaten to boycott the series about perceived attempts to ‘wash clean’ one of Britain’s most controversial politicians.
But that strength of feeling could be behind the 59-year-old’s decision to go on the show, according to public relations and political communications experts, as more politicians turn to reality TV to detoxify their brands.
“There are possible wins for an ambitious guy like Nigel,” said Julian Henry, a respected communications expert who led public relations for Big Brother for Channel 4, Pop Idol for ITV and American Idol for Fox.
“He is unlikely to admit it, but he will quietly wonder if the endless humiliation of these horrific Bush Tucker trials might lead to sudden and unexpected cries of support for him to run as the next conservative leader .
“Or maybe someone smart like TV producer Mark Burnett (Survivor, The Apprentice) might like what he sees and invite Nigel to host his own reality show, like Alan Sugar. Only he would be a public voting format designed to discover a new generation of politicians for Nigel’s dreamland, a post-Brexit Britain; perhaps call it Making Plans for Nigel.
The GB News presenter, who was reportedly offered a record £1.5 million to take part in the show, said he was ‘demonised’ for opposing the views of the ‘establishment, and he hoped that “those who hate me might hate me a little.” less” thereafter.
“The (Brexit) referendum was a long time ago, there are a lot of young people who don’t know who I am, who don’t know what I stand for,” Farage said.
It’s a sentiment that reflects our times, according to experts, who say an era of so-called Trumpian politics has prioritized politicians’ personalities over policies.
“Could you ever see the giants of politics – David Steel, Harold Wilson or Margaret Thatcher enter the jungle? asked public relations consultant Mark Borkowski. “We no longer seek dignity, decency or seriousness from our leaders. We only require stardust.
“People simply don’t trust Westminster. Trump’s popularity was due to the fact that he was brought into American homes with The Apprentice. He became a reality TV star. Farage is exactly that kind of person. He’s a big fan of Donald and he mimics a lot of that political showmanship.
Farage is not the first politician to speak out on I’m A Celebrity: last year Matt Hancock, the former health secretary, entered the jungle after being forced to resign from the government for breaching Covid rules. Nadine Dorries, Edwina Currie and Stanley Johnson also appeared on the show.
Meanwhile, many viewers will remember Ed Balls dancing Gangnam style in Strictly Come Dancing, George Galloway pretending to be a cat in Big Brother, Penny Mordaunt mistimed a backflip in Splash ! and Alan Johnson playing a Bangles tune on The Masked Singer UK.
“Sometimes it’s a political conceit to think ‘if only the public could see me for who I really am’,” said Tom Baldwin, former Labor party communications and strategy director and senior adviser to Ed Miliband.
“It’s often after some form of humiliation or disgrace. Balls had just lost his seat, Hancock had resigned. It’s a modern-day penance. It’s like saying, “I’m going to go sit in the stocks and let people throw things at me, or walk barefoot to Santiago.” My suffering will prove that I am sober again.”
This could all be part of Farage’s strategy to take over leadership of the Conservative Party if, as seems likely, they lose the next election, Baldwin added.
“He went to the Conservative Party conference saying he wanted to be leader of the Conservative Party one day, so maybe he thinks it’s a strange path back,” he said. “Farage is hugely popular with 25-30% of the public and hated by the rest of them. He had a profound influence on our politics in this country without ever having been elected as anything other than an MEP. So he might try to broaden his appeal.
And while reality TV isn’t without its risks — you’re in front of the camera 24/7, and “you’re definitely not going to be seen as Henry Kissinger later in life” — Baldwin said that simply showing some vulnerability could be enough to convince. some viewers.
“At one point, Hancock defied the critics,” Borkowski said. “People were like, ‘He’s not a bad guy, is he?’ – somehow forgetting that it was man who wanted the power of God to choose who lives and who dies during the pandemic.
Henry echoed this. “These types of reality TV shows are designed to provoke mockery and sneers, they like to make “celebrities” seem strange, crazy and sometimes even sad and lonely. I suspect many viewers will end up feeling sorry for poor old Nigel – as they did with Hancock – but maybe he’ll be happy with that because he can happily talk about the “younger demographic” to his conservative friends.”