Nigel Farage, former Ukip leader, enthusiastic imbiber of warm ale and unofficial mascot of British American Tobacco, would have us believe that he’s only taking part in TV’s I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! for the money. He’s being paid £1.5million – the highest fee in the show’s history. A phenomenal sum.
Before Farage was spirited off to Australia, he posted a series of witty, Loadsamoney-style TikToks, skilfully framing his decision as a sort of Del Boy move by a man who’s been in the headlines quite a bit for his banking troubles.
Will he come home to find a grovelling letter from Coutts, begging him to reapply? Who knows? But it would be a nice publicity stunt.
So far, so on-brand. But the truth is, Farage’s appearance in the jungle is not really about the money. It’s all about politics, his role as founder of Reform UK, and how it offers the perfect platform to launch his General Election campaign.
It’s not easy for a small political party to get airtime. Nigel has a show on GB News – but there he’s largely preaching to the converted. What he needs if he’s to have any chance of making a major impact at the next Election is to achieve what my special adviser friend refers to as ‘cut-through’: reach out beyond his own tribe to a whole new group of potential followers.
I’m A Celebrity… provides the perfect opportunity. What’s more, whereas most political parties have to pay to advertise their policies and ideas, Farage has managed to get ITV to pay him. Some might say that was genius.
There are strict rules about party political broadcasts, observing balance and fair play. Farage has deftly circumvented all of those. Over the next few weeks – provided he doesn’t get chucked out – he’ll have nightly access to millions of potential voters. And he will go all out to seduce them. Most importantly, it is the kind of audience that the Conservative Party – which stands to be annihilated if he successfully splits the Right-wing vote – could only ever dream of attracting: young people.
I’m A Celebrity… is watched predominately by the under-40s. Many will vote for the first time at the next Election. Many are not very interested in politics – maybe they aren’t even thinking about voting at all. But cheeky chappie, fag-behind-the-bike-sheds Nigel – now he might just get them off their PlayStations and down to the polling booth.
In the same way that Jeremy Corbyn garnered a generation of adoring young Corbynistas by casting himself as an anti-Establishment grandpa, it is possible that Nigel, if he plays his cards right, could spawn a new army of Faragista followers disillusioned with mainstream politics.
Who knows? Instead of ‘Ooh, Jeremy Corbyn’, we might even hear chants of ‘Ooh, Nigel Farage’ at next year’s Glastonbury. OK, it’s unlikely. But in the current bonkers political climate, not impossible.Farage already has almost 400,000 followers on TikTok, the social media platform that most of Gen Z seem increasingly to turn to for their political opinions.
Even more than Twitter, TikTok is rewriting the old political rules, and not necessarily for the best.
Last week, for example, a ‘Letter to America’ written by Osama Bin Laden in 2002, re-posted on the Guardian website (where else?) went viral, as scores of Gen Z-ers on TikTok persuaded themselves, via some sort of bout of viral insanity, that the rantings of the architect of 9/11 were worthy of serious intellectual consideration.
Along with weeks of barefaced pro-Hamas propaganda, praising the rape, murder and mutilation of Israeli citizens, it’s the latest example of how idiots and ignorance combine to chilling effect in the modern political landscape.
All this leads to the questions: who stands to benefit from such a psychosis, and who owns and profits from TikTok’s success? The answer to both questions is, of course, China. They must be laughing their heads off in Beijing. Like it or not (and I really do not), the reality is now undeniable: this is how our next Prime Minister will be decided. Not in town halls and on doorsteps, not by policy and open debate, but by Chinese-controlled smartphones and Silicon Valley algorithms. The age of the political soundbite is over: it’s just about the bytes now.
Nigel Farage, ever the opportunist, understands this, where others – namely the comms department of the Conservative Party – do not.
Recent polling shows that many of 2019’s Red Wall voters have already switched allegiance to Reform UK. If Farage puts in a good performance on I’m A Celebrity…, who knows how many more he will secure?
Plenty of young people already like him for speaking out against Rishi Sunak’s ban on cigarettes and vapes. If Farage’s political aides can successfully turn him into viral memes and saturate social media with his plain-speaking brand of pub wisdom, he could not only win the TV series but also bag himself the ultimate prize: being a kingmaker in Westminster.
It’s an insane world where taxpayers have to foot the protection bill for a Somali rapist (rightly) deported by the Home Office. We don’t even provide MPs with police protection, so why are we paying for foreign criminals to swan round like dignitaries? Perhaps the new Foreign Secretary could explain.
Attack on Gaza-vote MPs is vile
The backlash against Labour MPs who voted in the Commons against a Gaza ceasefire has been savage. The Cardiff office of Jo Stevens, who abstained, was daubed in red paint, Rushanara Ali (Bethnal Green and Bow) was targeted, while Sir Keir Starmer says he fears for his family’s safety.
Kim Leadbeater (Batley and Spen) felt obliged to justify her position on X, formerly Twitter, after her name was included on an intimidatory list posted on social media by the Green Party. Leadbeater is the sister of Jo Cox, the Labour MP murdered by a far-Right extremist.
After Tory MP David Amess was killed by the same ISIS-supporting fanatic who targeted my ex, Michael Gove, it’s a chilling reminder of what can happen to MPs when those on the fringes of sanity are encouraged by conspiracy theorists and agitators.
● It’s worth remembering that in 2000, President Bill Clinton brokered a deal that would have given Palestine roughly 95 per cent of Gaza and the entire West Bank. The reason this didn’t happen is Hamas – the terror group that recruits converts to its cause, which is the annihilation of Israel and the imposition of a global caliphate at the behest of its paymaster Iran. And those mobs chanting ‘From the River to the Sea’ on Britain’s streets are helping Hamas fulfil that dream. All those who pat themselves on the back for supporting ‘peace’ should remember that.
I’m not so sure, Brigitte…
We’re supposed to applaud Brigitte Macron for being so candid about how she and the future French president courted discreetly when she was a teacher and he was just 15 and in the same class as her daughter. But even by the standards of the French, who are much more liberal than we prudish Brits, it strikes me as weird. There’s nothing wrong with age differences in relationships, it’s just that normally they don’t start when one person is still a teenager and the other aged 40. And if they do… well, there’s a word for that.
● Debrett’s has published a guide to phone etiquette. It includes not leaving voicemails and always using headphones in public. (Amen to both!) But surely the most important rule is not to repeatedly call unless it’s an emergency.
My parents and children do this to me all the time. It drives me nuts, as it makes me think something awful has happened – only to discover that either Dad wants to rant about Rishi (again), or my daughter has found something she’d like for Christmas on Vinted.
Guys, I love you dearly, but unless it’s urgent (and yes, I know sometimes wanting that perfect pair of trainers can seem urgent: it’s not), please text!
Pick Kate, not Cat
I don’t mind who replaces Holly Willoughby on This Morning, but if I had a say, it wouldn’t be Cat Deeley but Kate Garraway.
Not because Deeley isn’t good – she’s great – and gorgeous, of course, but she’s very much in the same mould as Holly, all showbiz smiles and frothy banter, and a little, dare I say, lightweight. ITV needs someone more attuned to the times, someone with a bit of heart but also a broader range, someone who’s just as comfortable discussing the Middle East as talking about sequins. Garraway is all of those things – plus I think we all agree she deserves the break.
● Police officers in Staffordshire have been banned from saying ‘man up’ in new guidance designed to avoid causing offence. Presumably that means I can’t refer to them all as a bunch of big girls’ blouses?