When Nigel Farage entered the jungle on I’m A Celebrity… there was much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments. ‘I feel a little bit uncomfortable,’ TV critic Scott Bryan confessed on BBC Breakfast, ‘if his political opinions – not only on migration, but also around climate change and supporting the election of Donald Trump – are not going to be adequately challenged. I’m worried about the free ride that might give him.’ John Crace in the Guardian had even more green ants in his pants: ‘You have to wonder what ITV thinks it is doing giving him a platform. To normalise the abhorrent.’
Can these people hear themselves? They’re talking about a man whose Brexit party won a national election only three and a bit years ago. Farage is not a fringe freak, however much his critics might wish it so. His opinion on immigration – that it needs to be controlled and our borders enforced – is shared by an overwhelming majority of the country, even a majority of people who would never, ever vote for him. Farage is normal, at least for a politician; it is the likes of Bryan and Crace, with their terror of what the masses might do, who are on the margins.
Farage has said that one of the reasons for signing up to go the jungle – as well as the enormous amount of money ITV gave to him – was to reach a big young audience. If so, he’s deluded. I hate to break it to you, Nigel, but a huge young audience last tuned in to ITV for the finals of the TV Times Disco Dancing Championship in 1978. Despite its tawdry attempts to funk itself up, ITV remains the epitome of a granny channel.