From Politics to Primetime: The Rise of Politicians in Reality TV Shows

A person using a remote to navigate the TV which is in the background
Katie Sullivan 

Currently, there is a heated debate amongst current affairs surrounding the risky games our current and former politicians are playing when entering various reality TV shows, with former UKIP leader Nigel Farage taking on the challenges of the I’m A Celebrity Jungle. The majority of these politicians/stars have retired from their careers in parliament however, an already controversial figure, Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock joined the list of contestants in the 2022 ‘I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here’ Australian Jungle, while his constituents were still sitting. Other Politician-Celebrity hybrids who have tried their chances on the nations’ screens include the current leader of the House of Commons, Penny Mordaunt, on Splash! In 2014, Ed Balls and Ann Widdecombe in separate stints of Strictly Come Dancing. Matt Hancock was tried and tested in multiple heated discussions in the jungle about his role as a politician and justified his intentions by claiming he showed the ‘human’ side of politics, despite the inhumane disasters his decisions resulted in when in power.

The concept of politicians participating in these shows is particularly debatable because they are actually not celebrities. Their role as politicians is to be public servants and lead their constituents in the House of Commons, therefore, when active politicians take to the screen to tackle challenges unrelated to the benefit of the country, one does question if they have their priorities in order. Their TV personalities tend to trivialise the seriousness of the topics debated in the House of Commons, some of which lead to the question of life or death, as we witnessed so closely during the COVID-19 pandemic. It makes the politics happening in the current sphere seem like a simple means of entertainment, taking away from the actual seriousness of the topics. Some might relate this to the instability of leaders in the British Government, with Prime Minister Liz Truss lasting a record-breaking 49 days in office making a joke of the country.

the idea of the country’s most powerful people wandering into a jungle for a month in the middle of term comes with a shock factor

Bosses at ITV and I’m A Celeb have faced backlash in recent years due to them allowing and requesting politicians to partake in such activities. It has been questioned as to why platforms like ITV would want the responsibility of implicating politicians in such a situation, but the answer is simply for entertainment value. The idea of the country’s most powerful people wandering into a jungle for a month in the middle of term comes with a shock factor. People will tune in to see what their Health Secretary is up to while the society around them is sometimes seemingly falling apart. This can be contrasted with platforms such as the BBC who jump at the opportunity to officially broadcast the nation’s opinions on the drama with the assurance they won’t be advertising the tomfoolery themselves.

So why exactly is it that more and more politicians are becoming reality TV Stars? When asked why he agreed to go into the I’m A Celeb Jungle by his fellow campmates, Matt Hancock stated he was hunting for ‘a bit of forgiveness’. With shows like I’m a Celebrity and Big Brother, taken on by MPs George Galloway and Ann Widdecombe, putting politicians in isolated situations with people who don’t know them or their stories opens a door for a social aspect in which their sides of the stories can be revealed intimately to their fellow house/campmates while simultaneously being broadcast to the rest of the nation watching it on their screens at home. Taking on the gnarly Bushtucker Trials of the Jungle was certainly a way for him to prove his dedication to the people as he was voted in by the public five consecutive times and went on to take third place.

what damage is it doing to the political discourse of our country?

On the surface, it may seem like good fun to see the individuals who run the British Government take on some of the best quintessentially British punishments we can think of on our televisions every night for weeks at a time but realistically, what damage is it doing to the political discourse of our country? In most cases, when our politicians (soon come reality TV stars) are released from filming, they are reprimanded for their actions by officials, but that doesn’t fix the damage it does to Britain’s reputation in politics. Also, what does it say about their capabilities to understand the needs of the general public of their population? That they need to humiliate themselves on national television to fight for their forgiveness? These are the individuals we trust to make decisions and ultimately control the country we live in.

Katie Sullivan

Featured image courtesy of Karolina Grabowska via Pexels. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

For more content including Uni News, Reviews, Entertainment, Lifestyle, Features and so much more, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like our Facebook page for more articles and information on how to get involved.

To keep up to date with all the latest Impact News, you can also follow us on the Impact News’  FacebookInstagram and Twitter page.


Leave a Reply