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22 November 2017updated 30 Jul 2021 8:03am

British politicians on reality TV, rated and ranked

From the most disturbing to the “uh, it was fine, I guess”.

By Anna Leszkiewicz

British politicians seem to have a bit of a reality television addiction.

This week, it was announced that both former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale and former MEP (and father of Boris) Stanley Johnson would be appearing as contestents on I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here. Richard Leonard, the new leader of Scottish Labour, has said “feelings are running high” after Dugdale flew to Australia without the support of her party, but she is not going to be suspended.

If that creaking wind rushing past your ear carries with it the eerie feeling that we’ve been here before, it’s because we have. Here are past disheartening political appearances on reality TV, ranked from the most disturbing to the “uh, it was fine, I guess”.

George Galloway on Celebrity Big Brother

The original horror. When you search George Galloway, the second most suggested word is “cat”. Everything about it is repulsive – the slow question “And now…. Would you like me…. To be the cat?”, the whispering, the facial expressions, the sound of fabric against the sofa, the fact that Rula Lenska touches Cat George with her hands and her own head. But worst of all are the sounds George Galloway makes with his mouth. The lapping, the licking of his lips and hands. The obscene, wet sounds of nightmares. When I watch this, I feel a strange heat rising around the glands in my neck. I suddenly am unable to swallow. As a lump grows in my throat, I find myself vaguely coughing. As though I have a hairball. It has happened. I am the cat. -31,294.

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Michael Fabricant on First Dates

Utterly cringeworthy and bizarre. The kind of television that leaves you flinching and desperately gnawing on your own elbow while low groans of pain you didn’t know you could emit leave your mouth. I don’t know which bit was worse, the endless hair comments or the 1950s chat about secretaries wanting babies. -1,645. Cleanse me of this sight, sweet Lord.

Ed Balls on Strictly Come Dancing

One word: Creepy. I don’t need to see Ed Balls’ face between the thighs of a 27-year-old woman, I just don’t. It’s not cute. It’s not funny. And, as my colleague Anoosh writes, it is “the all-sashaying, all-sweating symbol of the monstrous clownification of politics”. Our major politicans shouldn’t be able to put on a glitter spandex suit and have all their mistakes forgiven. -949. My eyes are burning.

Lembit Opik on I’m a Celebrity

Literally who cares?! Yes, he annoyed everyone with terrible jokes and was bitten by a snake. But THIS was the year that Gillian McKeith stole the show with her phobia of absolutely everything you might find in a jungle. Or, as Lewis Boyd writes on Twitter, the year “we all as a country were able to vote and force Gillian McKeith, a 52 year old woman to do about 7 trials in a row to the point where she tried to fake fainting on live television.” Opik is remembered as he should be, as a footnote in the biography of a disgraced poo expert. -411.

Winston McKenzie on Celebrity Big Brother

He was evicted after three days for his homophobic views (calling gay adoption “child abuse”), heartily booed by the public and hated by his fellow contestants. He did not deserve the blessing of being chastised by Gemma Collins (who, when telling him off for his views, concern trolled McKenzie perfectly with the question, “Why are you not looking at me in my eyes?”) Your common or garden UKIP appearance, deeply tiring. -312.

Nadine Dorries on I’m a Celebrity…

The Conservative MP was the first to be evicted from the series – but not before she was buried alive, and ate an ostrich anus. She made far more enemies than friends during her brief stint on the show in 2012, and was suspended by her party for the appearance. It all ended in even more controversy when she refused to declare the £20,228 she made from her 12 days in the jungle. Honestly, I’m bored even typing this. -221.

Penny Mordaunt in Splash

She thinks people deserve less housing benefit and has consistently voted against increases to disability allowance, but here she is in a nice swimming costume!! Yay. -91.

Robert Kilroy Silk on I’m a Celebrity


Julia Goldsworth on The Games

I repeat: Who? Also: What?

Brian Paddick on I’m a Celebrity


Edwina Currie on I’m a Celebrity

She’s been on Hell’s Kitchen and Strictly Come Dancing, but my favourite Edwina Currie moment is here yelling Glory Hallelujah whilst a rain of bugs and slush pours down upon her naked head. Also: these people make our most important national decisions! Cool! -12.

Ann Widdecombe on Strictly Come Dancing

It takes a special kind of person to sign up to weeks of intensive and very public dancing performances and then treat those performances with such fierce lack of interest. Ann Widdecome put in an astoundingly low effort week after week after week. It also takes a special kind of person to be both “pro-life” and pro-the reinstitution of the death penalty, so there we go. Regressive politicians don’t get to become cute by putting on a pair of sparkly tights, but I am both confused and vaguely impressed by her flagrant disregard for the show whilst being on it. +32.

Jeremy Corbyn on Gogglebox

By far the least embarrassing of political forays into reality TV, even if he did reveal some gaps in his knowledge of third century Roman battles. A cup of tea, a chat about eggs, and some giggling with Jessica Hynes. Not bad. +59.

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