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The 7 things Labour can learn from Kezia Dugdale in the jungle

There’s no point throwing yourself into fish guts if you don’t have a strategy. 

Kezia Dugdale is going down as well as a bull’s penis smoothie. That's the verdict of the Sunwhich reports that Im a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! bosses are fuming at the former Scottish Labour leader's inability to create great TV in the jungle.

Her crimes include failing to win at competitions involving touching or consuming disgusting things, not having a fight with Boris Johnson’s father Stanley, and generally being a compliant camper.

Meanwhile, the programme has proved handy for Dugdale's post-leadership friendship reshuffle. Her public critics include fellow MSPs and her successor as Scottish Labour leader, Richard Leonard. Meanwhile perhaps discomfortingly, SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon declared herself “Team Kez”. (Writing in the Daily RecordDugdale's partner Jenny Gilruth (an SNP MSP) also came to her defence, while her SNP-supporting dad backed her on Twitter). 

So does Kez (no last names allowed in the jungle) understand more about politics than Scottish Labour? Or was her entire political career all an elaborate plan concocted by a secret network of reality TV producers and the SNP to bring down Scottish Labour? Here's what I learned from watching Kez on I'm a Celebrity.

1. Mock Ant and Dec at your peril

Jeremy Corbyn may not follow Ant and Dec, but watching I’m a Celeb is a commitment. Each episode is an hour long, and it is on Every. Single. Night. More than 12 million people, or roughly a sixth of the population, have watched it – the same amount that watch BBC Parliament all year. In fact, the only way for a politician to get more exposure on the small screen would be to don diving gear and skulk around a coral reef while the BBC filmed Blue Planet II.  

2. Every political broadcast should contain adorable animals

When Kez entered the jungle, everyone else immediately jumped on to her team. The reason? They were all Corbynsceptics. Just kidding! They were all taken in by the introductory video of Kez communing with a kangaroo in a wildlife sanctuary. (Stanley Johnson, father of the Foreign Secretary, also ingratiated himself with stories of tortoises and wallabies). Maybe aspiring prime ministers should put on the diving suit after all.

3. If you're buried in fish guts you can’t see the stars

Immediately after entering the jungle, Kez and mouthy broadcaster Iain Lee jumped into tunnels filled with nature’s discards, starting with the “Sickola Sturgeon” box of fish guts. Kez, the woman who conscientiously took over Scottish Labour at its worst moment, plunges in. But she can’t find the red star she needs to proceed, and while Iain crawls through spiders and snakes, she’s still there, mired in gloopy pink flesh while a little blood trickles out of the box. Eventually, she catches up with Iain in the “Jeremy Clawbyn” box, but once again, she’s scrabbling in the sand for a star while Iain leaps out of the end of the tunnel as the new jungle PM. Hard work only gets you so far.

4. Popularity always trumps pity

Kez left Scottish Labour a winner – at least by the standards of the party circa 2015 – but as Kez of the Jungle, her supporters lost confidence almost as soon as she entered the fish guts tunnel, and started squeaking “it’s not here” and “I can’t find it”. This was compounded by the shouts of “come on, Kez”, as if she were a middle-ranking Wimbledon tennis player holding the line until Andy Murray came along. By the evening she was on dunny duty.

5. This is a nation of neat freaks

Judging by social media, the most popular thing Kez has done on I’m a Celeb is tell the other campers to clean up.

6. You can get away with a lot if you’re an old white man with a posh voice

After Stanley admitted he hadn’t done much, Amir Khan told him that “we need people like you in the camp, you keep us all smiling” (no obvious comparisons in the Labour Party spring to mind). Once again, the man channelling David Attenborough is on top.

7. Go hard or go home

Much of the mutterings around Kez appear to stem from her failure to drink two smoothies, one made of bull’s anus and the other made of pig and ostrich anus. Once again, she was up against her former nemesis, Iain. After the buzzer went, Iain flung his shoulders back and downed one after another. Kez hunched her shoulders, drank most of one, and retched.

By this point, Iain was chugging the second – white foam dribbling triumphantly down his beard – before he put it on his head in celebration. From the start it looked like Kez didn’t really want to drink two smoothies made of animal genitalia, and it showed. Which begs the eternal Blue Planet question, wouldn’t a three-week holiday to an Australian coral reef be nicer?

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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What the university staff strike reveals about our broken higher education system

The marketisation of our universities is facing its biggest opposition yet.

The biggest industrial strike ever by academic staff in Britain's universities has begun.

National newspapers are running panicked headlines about what may happen if the strike lasts: “University strike puts final exams in danger”, warns The Times. “University strikes could hit exams and graduation ceremonies”, says the Guardian. But as well as affecting the education of students who are heavily in debt, the strikes will hit academics with very different levels of job security, and university establishments at a time when higher education is on the political agenda. 

The University and College Union voted for strike action last month over a failure to reach an agreement with Universities UK (UUK), the body which represents of the Vice Chancellors of every university in the country, over changes to academics' pension plans.

The pension scheme at the heart of the conflict, the Universities Superannuation Scheme, currently has over 400,000 participants. UUK have stated that the pension scheme currently has a £6.1bn deficit and that the cost of future benefits has increased by one third since 2014. They are proposing a switch from a direct benefit pension scheme (fixed, guaranteed pension payments) to a direct contribution scheme (reliant on stock markets) to maintain the scheme's sustainability.

However, many academics argue the deficit is overstated, and is instead a cynical attempt to reduce the universities' pension liabilties. 

Older and more senior academics who have already spent several decades paying into the system will be less affected by the changes, as contributions will be protected under the old scheme until 2019. 

UCU however allege that this change will result in an average yearly £10,000 loss in staff members' pensions. Academics at 61 universities, including the likes of Oxbridge, UCL, Imperial College London, Cardiff University and the University of Edinburgh will be striking for 14 days. 

The strikes begin on Thursday, and yet no-one seems to know what will happen. FAQs provided by universities to students all appear to have a similar theme: Academic disruption will be minimised, but if you have a complaint, please email us. 

16 percent of academic staff at these universities will be on strike (because most academics aren't a part of a union) but lectures and seminars have still been cancelled. It is still unclear for students whether they will be examined on subjects that they will miss. 

But for the most part, students appear to support the academics. Mark Crawford, a Postgraduate Sabbatical Officer at UCL (the biggest university in the country to strike) says he has been pleasantly surprised by the number of students who have messaged asking him how they can help. 

Perhaps this is due to the pains some academics have gone to minimise the disruption their students will face. Some lecturers have made presentations available online, and have amendeded their reading lists. One academic at King's College London, KCL, has even rearranged her seminars off campus. 

Yet this feeling of goodwill may disappear when reality kicks in. Robert Adderly, a second year Law student at KCL, and a campaigner for the student group provocatively titled “Students Against Strikes” says he’s unsure how supportive students will be once the action actually begins. 

Adderly, while sympathetic to the concerns of the academics does not believe striking is the most effective way to negotiate with Universities UK. He goes on to say that he believes “neither side is willing to compromise” and says that the “only people losing out are students.”

He also says he believes a lot of students “haven’t assessed how they really feel about the strikes” and that the “longer it goes on, the more students who will get angry”. 

Adderly's thoughts are backed by a poll conducted by Trendence UK, a market research company, which found that 38 per cent of students supported their academics on strike, compred to 38 per cent who did not.

Several academics have spoken to the New Statesman off the record about feelings of uneasiness around the strike, arguing that there is a better, less disruptive way of resolving the pension debate. Others are unsure about the leadership of UCU and believe striking will only lead to a build up of work later. 

Professor Andrew Pomiankowski at UCL emailed his students saying while he supported the strike, he would continue conducting his classes this week. He later told the New Statesman “I have a lot of sympathy with the reasons for the strike - the loss of provision of pensions, especially for the younger members of staff. Talking is the only way of resolving this problem. However, I don’t feel that I should disrupt teaching of students. That’s a step too far.”

The strikes go to the heart of the debate about the marketisation of university. Even students who support the strike are in conflict with one another. Notably, students who support the strikes are unhappy with campaigns such as Adderly’s which are also demanding universities compensate them for lost teaching hours. Crawford says your “first instinct shouldn’t be how much am I losing? It should be how much is our staff losing.”

On the other hand, Adderly argues we shouldn’t pretend the marketisation of university hasn’t already happened, saying “It’s here. It’s happening. We are now consumers.” 

Though it appears unlikely that universities will refund students, these strikes are highlighting how our attitudes to higher education have changed in a short space of time, and causing some to ask if this is the future we want for British higher education.