Nigel Farage's I'm a Celebrity signing raises duty of care concerns for ITV
"This appearance really is the last phase of humanising Farage and all that comes with him. The truth is that his politics are nasty and the impact that they have had on the country are still being felt and unfinished," writes Professor Kehinde Andrews.
Dr. Kehinde Andrews is professor of Black studies at Birmingham City University.
When Good Morning Britain invited me to debate Nigel Farage in 2018 I had serious reservations. It is one thing to skirmish in the culture wars with people like Piers Morgan, who are all bark and no bite. It is quite another to engage with Farage who is perhaps the person most responsible for poisoning public debate, by mainstreaming the small-minded xenophobia of the far right.
Former PM David Cameron once described Farage’s United Kingdom Independence Party as “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists”. But it is no coincidence that Cameron’s party adopted many of UKIP’s policies around immigration and agreed to the referendum that eventually led to Brexit, and a massive spike in racist hate crimes.
Farage’s appeal has been his racist dog whistles, blaming immigration for all the problems in the country, from the struggles of the NHS to the fact there is too much traffic. During the Brexit campaign he stoked irrational fears of Turkey joining the EU, and the low point was the “breaking point” poster depicting hordes of Syrian refugees with the subheading “the EU has failed us”. It was so offensive that Dave Prentis, of the Unison union reported it to the police as a “a blatant attempt to incite racial hatred” and it was referred by the police to the CPS.
We now have a government pursuing the most openly racist immigration policy in the history of this country replete with rhetoric of “invasion” and devising illegal schemes to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda. Of course, this is not all Farage’s fault, but he is one of the key pollutants of the dangerous political atmosphere.
So I strongly considered turning down the appearance with Farage, and came to wish that I had. I spent hours debating whether I would shake his hand off stage, but when he arrived backstage he spent the entire time complaining loudly that his driver did not have the right address. He treated me with such disdain that I made a point to make him shake my hand so he did not completely ignore me. The whole time backstage and in the debate on whether the English flag is a symbol of racism I was deeply uncomfortable and when it was over I felt morally unclean.
I can only imagine how his Black and Brown campmates will feel having to stay with him in Australia on this year's I'm a Celebrity. At least my role on GMB was to criticise him and his politics, not to live with him like he is just any old celebrity. There are serious questions to ask as to whether ITV has taken its duty of care to all the contestants seriously because they have put them in a potentially deeply uncomfortable position.
Farage and his politics could not have been so successful without his embrace by the mainstream press. He has become ubiquitous on our TV screens, from his numerous GMB appearances, to being one of the most popular guests on BBC’s Question Time and he now has his own show on the far more niche GB News. This exposure has made him a household name and made his ideas seem like they represent a reasonable voice for much of the nation.
ITV paid him allegedly three times the highest previous fee for an I’m a Celebrity contestant, a staggering £1.5 million, because of his status. Like him or loathe him, he will draw attention. I’ve never even considered tuning in previously but I am now interested in the show, just to see what the other campmates’ reactions are to him.
Unfortunately, I imagine that everyone will just be polite and accept him into the bug-eating fraternity. Farage has admitted that one of his motivations for taking part – besides the pay cheque – is because he feels he has “been demonised over the years and so it will be nice to show people I am not nasty”.
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This appearance really is the last phase of humanising Farage and all that comes with him. The truth is that his politics are nasty and the impact that they have had on the country are still being felt and unfinished. The media helped create the beast that is Farage, and now ITV is both exploiting that for ratings and clicks, whilst completing the mainstream-ing of the man and his dangerous politics.
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My advice is to steer clear – believe me, you can never cleanse yourself after participating in the Farage show.
A spokesperson for I'm a Celebrity… said: "Broadcasting across all of our platforms is tightly regulated and all of our programmes are subject to strict compliance to ensure due impartiality. I'm a Celebrity has a history of featuring divisive political figures and viewers often see different opinions and views being challenged during conversations in the camp."
They added in regards to their duty of care: "The safety and wellbeing of all of our campmates is our number one priority. All campmates have 24-hour access to both medical and psychological support during their stay in camp."
I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! starts on Sunday 19th November at 9pm on ITV1 and ITVX.
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