I'm A Celebrity 2014: Michael Buerk's suffering enjoyed by Moral Maze colleagues

Giles Fraser, the south London cleric and fellow Moral Maze panellist, urged Buerk to be given the “kangaroo’s testicles” Bush Tucker challenge

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He entered the jungle James Bond-style, with a daring skydive. But Michael Buerk can expect a bumpy arrival when the broadcaster finally returns to his dayjob chairing Radio 4’s The Moral Maze after skipping off to Australia to compete in I’m a Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here.

Viewers could be forgiven for asking if this was the same Buerk who recently dismissed reality television shows as low-brow drivel, after an eventful opening day in the ITV series.

The veteran newsreader learned to twerk with former playboy Bunny Kendra and formed a fist-bumping bromance with rapper Tinchy Stryder, in scenes watched by 10 million ITV viewers.

An £150,000 fee - which Buerk will use to treat himself to new double-glazing - persuaded the distinguished foreign correspondent to put aside his duties on The Moral Maze.

Journalist David Aaronovitch was called upon to present an edition of the ethical discussion programme, titled Loyalty, in Buerk’s absence.


Anne McElvoy, a regular Moral Maze panellist and Evening Standard columnist, has considered Buerk’s transformation from reality TV refusenik to star of his own “the only way is ethics” debate with Towie personality Gemma Collins.

“There are two kinds of celebrity shows,” she said. “The ones where you don’t recognise the names of anyone involved - and then those enlightened, experimental, innovative programmes which we find ourselves persuaded to take part in.”

Ms McElvoy added: “We’ll have some fun with Michael when he returns. We have some special phrases up our sleeves. If we find him back in the studio with maggots crawling out of his ears, I’ll be the first to make for the door.”

However the bearded Buerk could make a success of life in the jungle. “Michael comes across as this grumpy old man - and actually he really is, it’s not a persona. But I think he will cope incredibly well, he’s very flexible,” Ms McElvoy said.

“He is someone you can just drop in the jungle and he will roll with the blows. He’ll give them a good run for their money.”

Giles Fraser, the south London cleric and fellow Moral Maze panellist, urged Buerk to be given the “kangaroo’s testicles” Bush Tucker challenge.

Aaronovitch, who will present the programme as long as Buerk is required to entertain Ant and Dec, suggested “raw scorpion” as a delicacy.

Claire Fox, the usually voluble Director of the Institute of Ideas and a regular panellist on the BBC’s Moral Maze, said: “Of all issues to comment on, this is not one for me. Sorry.” Invited to offer his advice to Buerk, Michael Portillo said: “Thanks but I’ll not be commenting.”

Comedian Jack Whitehall refused to forgive Buerk for an interview in which he described much of BBC Three’s output as the “embarrassing end of drivel”.

Whitehall, who presents a chat shown on the channel, said: “Look forward to seeing him eating kangaroo bollocks with Gemma Collins.”

The BBC said Buerk had confided his intentions to take a leave of absence. A Radio 4 spokesman said: “Michael gave us plenty of notice, which enabled us to line David up.”

Buerk delivered a number of cringe-worthy moments during Sunday night’s opening episode. After being encouraged to “loosen your pants” and twerk by former Playboy Mansion-dweller Wilkinson, he said: “Oh right, it’s a bit similar to belly dancing.” The former BBC newsreader was also instructed how to engage in a complicated hip-hop handshake by Stryder.

Read more: Michael Buerk - the moralist with a microphone