I’m a Politician, Get Me Out Of Here

By Ricky Blake

With concerns over the increasing number of politicians in mainstream entertainment mounting, The Glasgow Guardian questions how far we can go before accessibility becomes public manipulation

Politicians are everywhere. From reality television to social media, switching seats in the newsroom to host their own slots. It has come to the point where ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’ hosts Ant and Dec espoused that they would prefer a series of the show without politicians. Over the last decade, the line between pop culture and politics has become increasingly blurred. This trend does not seem to be stopping any time soon. Therefore, it may be time to take a step back and consider where this began and whether it is good for our democracy or otherwise.

The worlds of celebrity and politics mixing is not a new concept. Ronald Regan started out as a film star before becoming president of the United States, characterising politics as the zenith of a person’s career, something to retire into. Recent Prime Ministers have come from all walks of life whether that be law, journalism, or science. But with individuals now obtaining fame in politics, only to follow a new career as a celebrity, this new phenomenon feels rather different.

With the average age of those entering politics getting increasingly younger, where once a retiring politician would have spent their final few years in the House of Lords, they now have decades left to start a completely new career. Also, since the launch of X (formerly Twitter) in 2006, the barriers that existed between the famous and the ordinary have broken down. Politicians increasingly look to social media to expand their appeal. See Rishi Sunak’s Home Alone spoof on Christmas Day, or his inability to carry out a TikTok transition. When politicians are sharing so much on social media, there begins an expectation that they do the same elsewhere. This leads to often humiliating appearances on I’m a Celebrity or Strictly Come Dancing, often humiliating themselves.

Why do they humiliate themselves? It was no secret what Nigel Farage or Matt Hancock were getting themselves in for when signing up for I’m a Celebrity, while Strictly hardly made Anne Widdecombe look like a graceful Ginger Rogers. 

Here is the crux. Despite the passing of a millennia, the prevailing view of politicians is that they are dishonest. The modern politician has made themselves more accessible to appear more accountable, dispelling any concerns regarding their dishonesty. If Rishi Sunak watches the same Christmas films as everyone else, and if Nigel Farage can do disgusting tasks on television, then maybe they cannot be all that bad.

As with any new phenomenon, it is difficult to discern the point at which the fusion of politics and media has gone too far. In October 2023 GB News announced that Boris Johnson would be joining their team along with other contemporary politicians. Many asked how news outlets can remain impartial whilst employing people with clear political opinions. The answer is they probably cannot. This infiltration of politicians into news outlets may harm political discourse, blurring the lines between what is news and what is editorial opinion. Politics will become inescapable.

Placing politicians increasingly in the spotlight may humanise them, making them more accountable, and at a time of increasing division, more discourse and access to politicians can absolutely be a good thing. A positive example of this is The Rest is Politics podcast hosted by Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart, two experienced people from opposing political divides discussing current affairs. But getting incumbent politicians to host news programmes is perhaps a step too far.

Ultimately, the public, who consume this media, will decide how the rise of the celebrity politician will affect national discourse. If the public remains aware of political biases that people hold, and demand balance in news reporting, the benefits of the accessible politician will flourish. Conversely, an unaccountable celebrity politician will damage the national discourse if they blur the line between entertainment and political canvassing.


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