I’m a Celebrity has reportedly struggled for viewers this year. Perhaps it’s the inclusion of the divisive Nigel Farage. Maybe it’s the underwhelming nature of the rest of the supposedly all-star line-up. Either way, ITV have hit on a new way of drawing in the prime-time audience: discussions of Australian defence procurement.
It came as – in what had previously been a largely Farage-free Sunday night episode – the former Ukip leader was grilled on Brexit benefits by Fred Sirieix, the maître d from Channel 4’s First Dates. “The thing is, Nigel,” said the combative Frenchman. “You destroyed the economy.”
“That’s absolute bollocks,” replied Farage. “Have a look at the German economy, the French economy…” before Sirieix interrupted him to remind him of the £350m NHS promise on the side of the infamous Brexit bus.
“Spending’s up by £500m,” insisted Farage, apparently plucking a random figure from the backside he had previously spent much of the week flaunting on television. “So why are we struggling with hospitals, then?” asked former boxer Tony Bellew. Answer came there none.
“Fred is a Rejoiner,” complained Farage in the diary room later. “He loves the European Union, he loves the European Court of Human Rights, he believes in all this stuff, and that’s fine. But Fred can’t help himself occasionally, that bubbling resentment and anger comes up to the surface.”
Back in the camp, Sirieix asked Farage for the three benefits of Brexit. “Self-government,” responded Farage. “Hopefully take back our territorial waters… the nuclear submarine deal with Australia. That could not have been done as a European Union member because France already had a contract. Simple as.” The nuclear submarine deal with Australia! It’s worth remembering at this point that it is Bellew who is the one who has spent his entire career being repeatedly punched in the head.
Elsewhere, though, Farage did make one fair point, albeit unwittingly. After jockey Frankie Dettori and Tony from Hollyoaks won a bag of dingo dollars by completing a task involving filling bottles with milk from a golf buggy (don’t ask), the rest of the camp had to bank it by correctly answering a question about on-screen Tony’s life. Which had not happened to him in the show: he had avoided being shot dead by jumping off a cliff, one of his children had been mixed up in the maternity ward or he had run a balloon shop which exploded?
It was clearly the balloon shop (that would be nonsense!) but, after taking a vote, the campers got it wrong and missed out on a treat. “The majority were wrong,” mused Farage in the diary room later. “Even democracy does occasionally get things wrong.” Well, quite.