The Daily Telegraph

Farage settles into camp like a happy, harmless, doddery scout master

- By Guy Kelly

I’m A Celebrity... ITV1 ★★★★★

Nigel Farage has always known precisely what his audience wants. As an 11-year-old at Dulwich College, he would entertain the other boys waiting to take the train to school by projecting spittle across two sets of tracks, hitting commuters on the opposite platform. One contempora­ry recalled being “in awe”.

As a young(ish) MEP, he was first booked on Question Time in 2000, and over the next two decades he appeared more than any other guest. Every other programme wanted a piece, too. In the early 2010s, you could rarely escape that sun-beaten, claret-blushed face.

He knew what he was doing, of course. Without the platform of a mainstream party, Farage used television to build his personal brand – and bang the drum for Brexit. As a result, he may be The Most Important British Politician of the 21st Century™, yet he’s also just a bona-fide TV star.

It’s little wonder, then, that ITV were willing to shell out £1.5million to convince Farage to sign up for the 23rd series of I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! which began last night with a nearly two-hour launch show.

#Boycottima­celeb was trending, on account of Farage being on it. ITV must have rubbed their hands together: their star attraction was delivering publicity before the first kangaroo scrotum had been eaten.

Last week, the snark had written itself – about people feeling sorry for the snakes; about how Farage is going abroad to make a load of money he’ll just send back home; about how he’ll never go hungry as he just dines out on Trump stories anyway...

Teasingly, ITV waited until the end of the introducto­ry montage to show the man himself. “In the jungle there’s no hiding place,” he intoned. For him, though, there apparently is: according to reports, he has been given special dispensati­on to smoke in camp, though they won’t show it on camera.

The third word in this programme’s title is often the hardest working term in showbusine­ss, and so it proved as we met Farage’s supporting players, whose fiercest Bushtucker Trial will be to try and not think about how much less they’re being paid to be there.

There’s Youtuber Nella Rose; Eastenders’ Danielle Harold and Hollyoaks’ Nick Pickard; Fred Sirieux from First Dates, plus TV presenters Marvin Humes and Josie Gibson. There’s TV personalit­y Sam Thompson and food critic Grace Dent. And finally Jamie Lynn Spears, sister of Britney.

Farage, Gibson and Rose were sent into the Australian outback for a series of challenges. Farage came dressed as Michael Portillo on an inter-rail holiday: salmon linen shirt, union flag socks, indigo chinos, deck shoes.

He and Gibson reflected. “It can’t be worse than Brexit...” Gibson said. Farage guffawed. “I had a feeling we’d get a bit of that!” Ant n Dec missed no opportunit­y. “Is it me, or did he veer just a bit too far to the right?” Dec quipped, while Farage drove a 4x4. As with Matt Hancock last year, it’ll be interestin­g to see how much sympathy the presenters afford another political figure using the programme to “show another side” to themselves.

Farage seemed a happy camper. At 59, he is a year younger than Brad Pitt, but with his trousers up to his Adam’s Apple and no idea how anybody else on the show is famous, he looked like a harmless 85-year-old. He was voted to take the first trial, and acted thrilled.

It’s just as he planned it. Farage has his audience – now he’ll give them precisely what they want.

 ?? ?? Nigel Farage was voted to take on the first challenge, which saw him coming face to face with a box full of snakes
Nigel Farage was voted to take on the first challenge, which saw him coming face to face with a box full of snakes
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