Whether it’s his infamous moonlit after-dinner dip with Aaron Banks or spotting migrant boats off the Kent coast, Nigel Farage is accustomed to watery escapades. Sadly he proved a damp squib during a sub-aqua challenge on I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! (ITV1).
Farage and Hollyoaks actor Nick Pickard - now there’s a political alliance we didn’t expect to be reporting on a month ago - took the plunge in a Bushtucker Trial called “In Too Deep”. Aptly for a series that has often seemed stuck up the creek, it found the duo waist-deep in water tanks, taking turns to submerge themselves and unscrew stars with spanners.
The Hollybloke and the jolly bloke were joined by spiders, snakes, crabs and crocodiles but it wasn’t the wildlife that bothered Farage. He struggled to hold his breath underwater and was forced to utter that dread phrase: “I’m a celebrity, get me out of here.” As co-host Ant McPartlin later quipped: “You know Nigel. He always goes with the Leave option.”
Luckily, “merman” Pickard took up the slack and retrieved six stars out of 11. A visibly frustrated Farage said “I couldn’t bloody do it”, “I feel like a failure” and feared he’d “let the side down”. He’s reportedly been allowed secret cigarette breaks, stepping away from the cameras 10 times per day for a crafty smoke. On this evidence, it’s not doing his lung capacity much good. He confessed that he’s “more of a golfer than a swimmer” and “wasn’t a happy camper”.
At least it secured him some sought-after airtime after being relegated to a bit part in recent days. Farage’s allies even accused ITV of using “dirty tricks” to cut his minutes on-screen and prevent him winning the contest. After such a woeful performance in the trial, they might wish their hero had been kept on the sidelines. Farage has more in common with his nemesis Nella Rose than he thinks. She fluffed a trial and left her campmates hungry only the night before.
Back in camp, Farage asked YouTuber Rose if he’d upset her during Tuesday’s discussion of cultural appropriation over using the Jamaican pronunciation of water. Rose admitted she was perturbed by his dismissiveness, concluding: “We can agree to disagree but let’s not be the best of buds. Clearly we’re just from two different sides of the world and you’ll never understand my issues or struggles.”
With a 33-year age gap between the pair, it was a textbook generational disagreement - a scene which will doubtless be repeated around family dinner tables this Christmas - but again, Farage hardly covered himself in glory. He appeared overly concerned about how he might be coming across. “If I’m filmed saying wata, I’m going to get hell,” he said. “I’m worried I’ll get a lot of abuse.” The architect of Brexit is usually far more bullish. He seemed paranoid about being “cancelled”, although he’s hardly a liberal darling as it is. Ofcom has received 2,000 complaints about Rose’s rows with Farage and Fred Sirieix. Love her or hate her, at least she’s injecting drama into a lacklustre series.
As the contest limped past its midway mark, camp leader Sam Thompson took time out from chuntering incessantly and hugging everyone to make an unbecoming fuss about a leech leaving a tiny wound on his bottom. French charmer Sirieix and EastEnders dynamo Danielle Harold, both firm favourites for the final, teamed up for a road sign challenge and earned crisps for camp. They were stingy in number and slightly stale but nobody cared. “This is astonishing,” murmured Farage as campmates devoured every crumb. “It’s small mercies.”
Farage was last seen grumbling with Siriex over campfire hygiene standards, like a domestic Statler and Waldorf. When he wasn’t flashing his derriere in the waterfall shower or obsessing over his apron, resident chef Sirieix cooked their rice rations with the precious stock cubes won by campmates, resulting in what boxer Tony Bellew called “beef porridge”. Don’t go getting any ideas, Heston Blumenthal.
The beleaguered series suffered another blow with the announcement that Jamie Lynn Spears has prematurely departed. Cue the inevitable “Quit Me Baby One More Time” headlines. As with food critic Grace Dent two days ago, the vague phrase “on medical grounds” was cited. Homesick Spears, who barely stopped blubbing for her first few days in camp, made her last appearance on Wednesday night’s episode.
Once again, there was no explanation, no goodbye, no exit interview. She won’t be missed much by viewers. Spears was presumably cast in the hope that she’d dish the dirt on her famous sister Britney, which never materialised. Instead it’s a further setback for the troubled production. A cork-hatted dozen is already down to 10. It leaves the cast distinctly male-heavy, with three women out of the remaining 10. This Morning’s Josie Gibson dubbed the trio “Charlie’s Angels gone wrong”.
Combined with the controversy over Farage’s mere presence, a ratings slump and accusations of animal cruelty, the wheels are coming off the jungle juggernaut. Is it time to put the programme out of its misery? Perhaps it can be pulled on medical grounds. It’s all the rage nowadays.