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8th December 2023

I’m a Cynic, Get Me Out of Here! Don’t fall for the Tory TV stars

First Matt Hancock, and now Nigel Farage – both Tories are using reality TV to rehabilitate their images after building reputations of being among some of the most reprehensible people in the country
I’m a Cynic, Get Me Out of Here! Don’t fall for the Tory TV stars
Nigel Farage on I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! via ITV

I’m a Celeb came and went for another year, this time with the ex-politician and anti-EU fearmonger, Nigel Farage in the line-up. He has become ITV’s big selling point this past series, as made abundantly clear with The Telegraph review of day six, complaining about the lack of Farage’s screentime “killing” the show.

Positioned as a “controversial” contestant to add drama, Farage hoped to pull a Matt Hancock and attempt to win over some of the British public through public humiliation. 

The hosts Ant and Dec often made jokes at his expense, and Farage ate a myriad of animal scraps, but neither of these makes up for the large platform he gains. Jabs from the presenters are a small price to pay when trying to win over the British public; if he “takes it on the chin,” it only makes him appear more human.

Oh, and the £1.5 million he got paid to be there can’t hurt either. 

Frankly, I don’t think we should have politicians prancing around on TV like circus animals. Matt Hancock was bad enough when he set the precedent: make a fool of yourself on TV and become the image of a “decent chap” in the eyes of the public. It is worth mentioning that this year’s I’m a Celeb lost around 2 million viewers compared to last year’s launch, so not everyone is falling for it this time, but giving Farage any platform at all is a concern. 

There were more calls to remove internet personality Nella Rose from I’m a Celeb than outrage at Farage’s presence. Reactions towards Rose tended to focus on her being too loud, a common racialised insult that the masses on X (formerly Twitter) don’t have any objection to launching her way. Not to jump to conclusions, but it seems obvious that there is something very wrong with a country that is infuriated more over a black woman being herself on TV, than a notorious racist xenophobe.

2023 Big Brother contestant Henry is another reality TV Tory who has won public favour this year. Placing third overall and beloved by the public due to his relationship with the winner Jordan, his Boris Johnson praise (including love for the former-Prime Ministers’ questionable COVID policies) seems to have been forgotten by the public. Frankly, I was confused that the avid anti-Tories in my life were rooting for Henry to win.

During a time of such national divide, heavy-handed opposition based just on someone’s politics isn’t beneficial to solving the issues we have. But I do find it hard to understand why the people in my life who would usually frown upon such avid pro-Conservative support, would be rooting for a self described Boris-loving “snob” to win the large cash price. Especially when he seems to come from wealth already.

Supporting the current government means you at best, enthuse about, and at worse, ignore their exclusionary migrant policies, dodgy contracts to friends in business, anti-homeless ‘tent’ based rhetoric, and much more. Someone who supports these things shouldn’t be becoming a beloved TV star who undoubtedly will benefit from resulting brand deals and TV appearances. It makes Conservative supporters and politicians out to be friendly or relatable, whilst ignoring their support of cruel policies. 

I think that this new era of “relatable” Conservative contestants is reflective of the shift in government strategy: move away from polarising figures and instead have politicians become more centred or “down with the people.” 

David Cameron’s entrance to Downing Street on November 13 was perfectly captured during the live Sky News broadcast where you could hear a shocked utterance of “what the hell” in the background. At first, it was a massive surprise that Cameron has re-entered mainstream politics – but it is starting to make more sense. 

In the same November reshuffle former Home Secretary Suella Braverman was removed from her position. YouGov polling just a few days beforehand shows that only 22% of the public thought she should keep her job. This seems indicative of a growing resentment towards far-right policies and the controversial opinions of Tory front benchers.

What I believe Braverman’s dismissal and Cameron’s new role represent for this new cabinet is a return to one-nation conservatism, the days of an allegedly more centre-based party (though I would heavily contest this). Conservative voters are drawing on nostalgia to frame the early days on the current Conservative rule, think 2010-2015, as a time of ‘friendly old chaps’ and less polarity. 

But it should be noted that this was a time of austerity, questionable airstrikes, and back-peddling on manifesto promises – all of us will remember the Lib Dem promise of scrapping university tuition only for fees to triple as they went into coalition with the Conservatives. The air of male Etonian privilege and distain of minority groups has always permeated the party, it was just a more ‘presentable’ version than the loud-mouthed headlines of the currently iteration of Tories.

The far-right players, like Nigel Farage, might have helped during the days of Brexit but the public is more focused on the unaffordable cost of living than worrying about culture wars.

At times like this, where political discontent continues to rise and protests happen weekly, it unsurprising that the Conservatives are desperately trying to build a false media image of ‘calmer waters’ in an attempt at avoid upheaval of the system they currently sit at the top of.

The government is switching tactics back to the days of ‘gentlemanly conduct’ and encouraging unity with the hope that anti-Labour voters will be swayed to a less radical Conservative Party. Becoming more human, more central and much less focused on fighting culture-wars is the new goal. Essentially, tricking the voter into seeing them as less of a shouty mess and instead a return to an allegedly ‘palatable’, traditional party of years gone by. 

Not everyone will fall for the “relatable bloke on telly” stunt that Farage is trying to pull, but there will be some who do. We just have to hope seeing Nigel Farage’s transparent attempts to ‘play nice’ for the media will be enough to encourage the public to turn their TVs off in disgust and not fall for his tactics.

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