Brexit leader Nigel Farage stokes fresh controversy with reality TV role
- Critics of right-wing Farage fear he will air his political views unchallenged on I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! which is filmed in Australia
- Ex-UK health secretary Matt Hancock was criticised for taking time out of parliament to appear in the 2022 show where he had to eat kangaroo testicles
Anti-EU populist Nigel Farage, who helped polarise Britain during the 2016 Brexit referendum, is dividing opinions again with a controversial appearance on a popular reality television show.
The former member of the European parliament this week became the latest British political figure to appear on I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! which is known for its gruesome challenges.
The ITV show takes a group of household names - some better known than others - to a rainforest in Australia, pitting them against the elements and various slippery creatures.
“I’m a hero to some people and an absolute villain to millions,” said Farage, 59, as he debuted on Sunday by sticking his head through the window of a campervan full of snakes.
“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.
“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.”
Farage’s appearance - for which he is reportedly receiving a hefty fee - has angered fans of the long-running I’m a Celebrity.
#BoycottImACeleb was trending on X - formerly known as Twitter - on Sunday night, British media reported.
The online campaign may have driven down viewing figures, with the first episode of the new series registering more than two million fewer viewers than last year, at around seven million.
Critics of Farage fear that the arch-eurosceptic who previously led the right-wing UK Independence Party (UKIP), will be able to air his political views unchallenged.
They also point out that, unlike previous contestants from the world of politics, Farage’s political career may not be over, with some tipping him as a future leader of Britain’s ruling Conservative party.
“This appearance really is the last phase of humanising Farage and all that comes with him,” wrote Kehinde Andrews, professor of black studies at Birmingham City University, on the Radio Times website.
“The truth is that his politics are nasty and the impact that they have had on the country are still being felt and unfinished.”
A spokesperson for the programme told Agence France-Presse: “I’m A Celebrity has always featured a diverse cast from all areas of public life and has a history of featuring political figures throughout its over 20 years on screen.
“As with any camp mate, viewers are invited to form their own opinions.”
Former UK health secretary Matt Hancock notably ate kangaroo testicles when he appeared on the 2022 series but was criticised for taking time out of parliament to go on the show.