The Daily Telegraph

Can a month in the jungle help Farage escape from the political wilderness?

- By Ed Cumming

Many great leaders have benefitted from time abroad. Geographic­al distance can bring clarity and purpose to plans, as well as new experience­s and encounters to inform your political philosophy.

Think of Lenin thrashing things out in the British Museum, Napoleon revving up in exile on Elba, or Gandhi observing the persecutio­n in South Africa and developing his theories of non-violent protest.

To this illustriou­s team we can add Nigel Farage. The former Ukip leader was spotted in Brisbane airport on Sunday, dressed in a rose-pink jacket and sporting a poppy, on his way to the jungle to film ITV’S I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.

Then, Farage was coy, saying only that he “might” be going on the programme and said that he could see the value in it.

“I can’t confirm I’m doing it,” he told a Mailonline reporter at the airport, “I just think there’s a big … audience out there that watches the programme [who are] actually, people … worth talking to.”

We need wonder no more. Yesterday evening Farage’s appearance was confirmed.

Che Guevara had his lepers in eastern Peru. If reports are true, Farage will have the First Dates presenter, Fred Sirieix, and Youtuber Nella Rose, among others.

It is reported Farage is being paid £1.5 million for his appearance, or 4.68 times more than Matt Hancock, measured by the £320,000 the former health secretary apparently made from his turn on the show last year.

Where prime time ITV reality challenge shows are concerned, it pays to follow the money. Farage’s higher fee reflects the fact that, unlike other politician­s who have gone into the jungle, he is not a busted flush.

Edwina Currie and Stanley Johnson were very much retired when they appeared on the programme. Nadine Dorries is the only other MP with potential, not spent, political energy, to have submitted to Ant and Dec’s tyranny. Ten years on from her controvers­ial appearance in 2013, we cannot say it propelled her straight to the top.

Things might be different for Farage. His entry could hardly be better timed, with the Tories in organisati­onal disarray and polling hell. Suella Braverman has been sacked, a reshuffle is under way. So desperate is the situation that Rishi Sunak has brought Farage’s old nemesis, David Cameron, back into the fold. He was the future once, but will he be again? It seems unlikely.farage’s return to front-line TV comes after months in which his stock has been rising. At Conservati­ve Party Conference he appeared stronger than ever. The Prime Minister refused to rule out welcoming Farage back to the fold, while the man himself said that the Tories were now indistingu­ishable from Labour and that he would be leader by 2026.

The Tory Right lacks direction, with the rest of the party fearful of the hiding it is due to receive from Labour at the next general election. Farage has succeeded before when the party has ignored views from the Right. He remains well placed to seize that ground again.

The man himself is maintainin­g a dignified silence before what could be, in a crowded field, the least dignified weeks of his life. Apart from the bushtucker trials, he can expect insects, tropical heat and dreary fellow contestant­s, with not a pint of bitter or an RAF flyby in sight to soothe his nerves.

Yet Farage’s comments at the airport suggest that he sees the value in the programme beyond the gigantic appearance fee. I’m A Celebrity is watched by millions, many of whom will not have paid close attention to Tory conference. In between all the physical or gustatory challenges, the competitor­s on the programme have plenty of time for the kind of inane chit-chat that makes you long for a poisonous spider to come along and deliver you.

It’s as Farage says, there are people “out there” who are worth talking to. The same cannot be said of the people in there.

This vacuum could be a perfect breeding ground for ideas. Usually politics is too boring to be preferable to light entertainm­ent, but in the jungle everybody can hear you scheme. Could I’m A Celebrity be the former Ukip leader’s launchpad for a political comeback? You would not bet against it.

Even if Farage’s time in the jungle does not send him hurtling towards high office, there may be other benefits. Having the whip removed did not herald a political boost for Matt Hancock, but as SAS: Who Dares Wins proved, he has found his true calling: being humiliated on reality TV programmes.

“I wouldn’t rule out a return to front-line politics,” a friend of Nigel Farage told The Telegraph. “While those in SW1 talk among themselves deciding who the latest also-ran is to receive a seat at the Cabinet table, there are millions of people that feel they have no representa­tion. He definitely sees his appearance as an opportunit­y to appeal to a new, younger audience – one that was too young to vote in the Brexit referendum. And that won’t hurt whatever he decides to do next.”

Other leaders have gone abroad the better to see their motherland. Farage is going so that his motherland might see him. He will loom day and night in glistening high definition, perspiring into his safari suit, chowing down on marsupial penis. It remains to be seen whether his plan will endear him to the audience at home.

As seven failed general election campaigns attest, personal public votes have never been Farage’s strong suit.

But then again, I’m a Celebrity is all about trying things for the first time.

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 ?? ?? Nigel Farage heads into the jungle to compete in I’m a Celebrity, which he sees as an opportunit­y to appeal to a younger audience
Nigel Farage heads into the jungle to compete in I’m a Celebrity, which he sees as an opportunit­y to appeal to a younger audience

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