Nigel Farage has left the jungle. For a brief moment it looked as if the original Brexiteer might pull off yet another electoral upset. Instead, he finished a creditable third on I’m a Celebrity… one of the biggest popularity contests on TV.
Throughout the series, left-leaning commentators have accused ITV of deliberately ‘fun-washing’ (a depressingly 2023 phrase) Farage’s reputation. The comedian Stewart Lee wrote an especially humourless piece for the Guardian, which included a passage implying that because of Farage’s appearance in the jungle, Ant and Dec were somehow sympathisers of the Norwegian white supremacist Anders Breivik (yes, really). I have little doubt that alongside an army of GB News viewers and hardcore Brexit supporters, there will also have been those who voted for Farage simply to enjoy the crescendo of hysteria from left-wing social media every time he survived a vote-off.
And yet, it would be a mistake to assume Farage’s podium finish is a sign that viewers have fallen in love with either his personality or politics. For those of us who have followed the series closely, he has made for surprisingly lacklustre television. As Gareth Roberts correctly observed on these pages a few weeks ago, Farage has revealed himself to be a really rather boring man. He has largely (and perhaps deliberately) avoided any blazing political rows with his campmates, and shown little of the roguish bonhomie one associates with him. Aside from a brief glimmer of jocularity, when he performed Right Said Fred’s ‘I’m Too Sexy’ during a karaoke session in the Jungle Arms, he has been a peripheral figure, reduced to wandering around camp muttering about the litter.
This time last year, on the same programme, the former Health Secretary Matt Hancock surprised the nation by also finishing third.