It was revealed last week that former Scottish Labour party leader Kezia Dugdale would be joining the line-up of so-called “celebrities” to take part in this year’s series of ‘I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!’ The Sun reported that the politician would head to Australia immediately, during a particularly tumultuous time for her party, which in the last week alone has seen her stand-in replacement Alex Rowley forced to quit, and Corbyn ally Richard Leonard announced as the party’s new leader.
It has since emerged that Dugdale sought permission from party chiefs, with MSP Neil Findlay denouncing her decision to enter the jungle as “ludicrous”, adding that: “I think it demeans politics when people get involved in that. I think we’ve a very serious job to do…” But this is categorically unfair. One would presume she will have implemented a stand-in to fulfil her responsibilities within the Scottish Parliament, in the manner many MPs do when, for example, they’re ill or taking annual leave. Neil Findlay’s draconian shaming of Dugdale’s decision to appear on the show – and raise money for charity in the process – seems to me to be a thinly-veiled act of snobbery.
Findlay chose in his interview on Sunday to pick up on the perceived low-brow nature of the show, noting that the show involves “[jetting] off around the world and [sitting] around a campfire eating a kangaroo’s appendage.” This flippant remark, although possibly rooted in concern for the adequate representation of Dugdale’s regional constituents, fails to recognise the potential value of the MSP’s appearance on the show, which in its last series averaged a staggering 10.5 million viewers. Such appearances humanise politicians, who often seem removed from the preoccupations and interests of their electorate.
Former Conservative MP Edwina Currie’s decision to star on the show in 2014 was lauded by viewers and parliamentarians alike as a step towards personifying the representatives of a political system seen by many as archaic and inaccessible. Boris Johnson’s father Stanley, a prominent Conservative MEP in the 1980s, and co-chairman of pro-EU environmentalist group Environmentalists for Europe, is among the contestants appearing on the show.
Singling Dugdale out as the sole political figure on this year’s series is clearly an act of outrageous finger-pointing on the part of her colleagues. As Nicola Sturgeon said, Scottish Labour has shown itself this week to be a toxic “nest of vipers” by not applauding Dugdale’s attempt to demystify politicians. If the Duchess of Cambridge can be a relative-in-law of ‘Made in Chelsea’ bad-boy Spencer Matthews, surely Dugdale can eat a few wombat testicles for charity.