Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Why Nadine needs to get out of I'm a Celeb right now

Politics, they say, is showbiz for ugly people. Not to be confused then, with I'm a Celebrity ... Which is showbiz for desperate people.

What on earth has possessed Tory MP Nadine Dorries, (55), to agree to appear on a reality TV show infamous for its public humiliation of contestants by immersion in cockroach-infested swamp?

Surely she cannot possibly be that desperate? The answer, tragically, is that yes, she is.

For 15 minutes of prime time fame, the honourable member for Mid Bedfordshire is prepared to sacrifice not so much her own dignity but more shockingly, that of the office to which she has been elected by trusting voters.

She will swap Westminster for the cut and thrust of campfire debate. She will miss a crucial Commons vote on the EU to face a nightly phone-in poll to decide which contestant is up for Bushtucker trial. And while her fellow MPs will continue to chew over the major issues of the day in the chamber of the House, she'll be chomping on marsupial genitalia and witchetty grubs alongside the usual mix of fading soap stars, a wrestler, a comic, a Pussycat Doll and an ancient Dr Who.

The only motions she will be discussing with that lot will be the consequence of a diet switch majoring in beans and rice.

All this so that Ms Dorries gets her bake on the box before a potential audience of 16 million viewers. She says she has never actually watched the show (they all say that) and that the only thing she is worried about in her new camp is rodents. But then, she quips, she's surrounded by rats at Westminster anyway.

Taxpayers who are forking out for Nadine's Australian jungle sabbatical via her MP's salary (£65,000 per annum) may not be splitting their sides at her wee witticism. Needless to say there's a "serious" reason behind Ms Dorries' decision to pack her bags for Oz and her reality TV debut. (Aside, presumably from the £40,000 pay cheque.)

Inevitably she wants to "raise awareness of issues." Chief among these apparently is her desire to convey to a wider audience her argument that the time limit on abortion should be limited to 20 weeks.

Whatever your views on the subject, can you think of anything more appalling, more distasteful than trivialising the debate on abortion by reducing it to a campfire discussion on a reality TV show best known for dousing Z list celebs in gunge, bugs and humiliation?

It's not being pompous or joyless to point out that when Ms Dorries MP parachutes into the Celeb jungle she demeans her public role. She was elected to Westminster. Not the West End.

Swallowing fish eyeballs in the Rank Banquet may raise her profile but it's not going to establish her as a serious political player.

What does she think she's going to get out of it? A ministerial elevation? Or the panto season in Great Yarmouth?

Dorries has previously dismissed David Cameron and George Osborne as two posh boys (which they are.) But nothing she will do on I'm a Celeb is going to change to public perception of the Tory party. Any more than it would impress voters to see the Foreign Secretary take over the bus on Coach Trip. Or the Health Secretary do a stint on Embarrassing Bodies.

The whole premise of shows like I'm a Celeb is that, while it allows the desperadoes and has-beens a nightly tilt at self-promotion, payback comes in the form of the kangaroo justice of the public vote. It is the jungle equivalent of the stocks.

When George Orwell wrote about a bleak political landscape dominated by Big Brother he didn't envisage a show with Davina.

By agreeing to do I'm a Celeb, Nadine Dorries proves that her political judgement is entirely skewed. She also presented her boss with his very own Bushtucker Trial.

David Cameron is right to have acted swiftly, suspending her from the party and demanding an explanation. And when the show starts maybe he should get on the phones and vote her out of there.

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