Janet in the jungle: the case for the defence

She's been vilified, patronised and written off in terms that would make even the IoS editor-at-large blush. Time to rally the troops, reports Jonathan Thompson
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The Independent Online

She's a "moany old cow". Or a "harridan". Even "a big-toothed whiner". That's just for starters. "Her face," said Amanda Platell in the Daily Mail last week, "looks like a sack of witchetty grubs." Nice.

She's a "moany old cow". Or a "harridan". Even "a big-toothed whiner". That's just for starters. "Her face," said Amanda Platell in the Daily Mail last week, "looks like a sack of witchetty grubs." Nice.

While viewers of ITV's I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here may have sympathised with The Independent on Sunday's editor-at-large, Janet Street-Porter when she was bitten by snakes in the reality TV show set in the Australian jungle, The Sun reported: "Don't worry folks ... the snakes survived."

Our readers joined in. "If she's not serving up some vituperative bile, then it's her silly views on life in general," wrote one. "... the meaningless antics of [a] boring poseuse," said another.

Yet, after a week ofbarbed press attacks,many famous names rallied to her defence. David Furnish, partner of Sir Elton John, called Street-Porter "a complete original". "She is a highly intelligent, courageous woman who isn't afraid to speak her mind," said Mr Furnish.

The artist Tracey Emin was glowing in praise. "I can't think of anyone better to be in the jungle with," said Ms Emin. "Janet is mind-blowingly intelligent."

The Pet Shop Boys' Neil Tennant, who has known Street-Porter for 18 years, said: "Ultimately, you have to be courageous to speak your mind as Janet does. You might have to be pig-headed as well, but the two often go together."

Paul O'Grady, television presenter and alter-ego of Lily Savage, said: "She's a narky old bitch, but I love her. Snakes are nothing to her: she'll eat people alive."

The celebrity shoe designer Patrick Cox admitted she was "an acquired taste", but added: "Her bark is worse than her bite." Support also came from the MP and former culture secretary Chris Smith, who shares a love of rambling with Street-Porter. "She's always been up for a challenge," said Mr Smith, president of the Ramblers Association - a position Street-Porter also held. "Janet will sail through."

Tony Elliott, chairman of Time Out and an ex-husband of Street-Porter, who remains close to her, said: "I don't think Janet would have done this if she didn't think she had a chance of winning."

The social commentator Peter York, who had lunch with her days before she left for the jungle, said: "Janet is a national treasure. You couldn't invent her. She's tough physically." Oliver James, clinical psychologist, who worked with Street-Porter on Channel 4's Network 7, said: "Janet is somebody who likes to be the centre of attention. She is extremely thick-skinned... she's always been a lover of celebrity - particularly her own."

Nick Barrett, chief executive of the Ramblers Association, said: "She's the real thing - she calls things as she sees them. She's the only genuine character in an indescribably bland group of people."


Last week we gave readers a dozen good reasons to vote for the Independent on Sunday's editor-at-large, Janet Street-Porter, to retain her place in the jungle. After a strong showing by JSP in her first week in camp, here are some more...

* Because she provides employment for the Glenda Slaggs of this world. "On reality TV, a sharp wit is no substitute for a pert butt," observed Amanda Platell in the Daily Mail. Or, as Platell put it later in the New Statesman, "A superior wit will not be enough to salvage her reputation ... she looks like a sack of maggots first thing in the morning." Annie Brown in The Daily Record wrote: "Thank God [she] doesn't feel the need to compensate for being ugly by being a nice person."

* Because she has a plan. Janet began by being "a moany cow". This got her sent on a "snake strike challenge" by viewers. She passed with flying colours, retrieving nine wooden stars - each representing a meal for her companions - from a box full of snakes, despite being bitten three times.

* Because we haven't seen Janet cry. Unlike the other female campers, Janet has shown no lachrymose inclinations. This may change in the final stages, as a vulnerable Janet emerges. It could happen.

* Because she would never apologise for stepping on an eel, as Natalie Appleton did. Janet would make the eel apologise for getting in her way.

* Because a quiet word from Janet was sufficient to send foul-mouthed ex-pop star Brian Harvey out of the show. "Please don't do that when we are cooking," she said as Harvey broke wind, "it's so inappropriate."

* Because, whatever you may say about Janet, she is not pretentious. Unlike Fran Cosgrave, the show's most obscure contestant - "The wind and rain is my music for the next two weeks."

* Because a woman needs her sleep. On comedian Vic Reeves's unexpected arrival in the camp to take up residence with his wife Nancy Sorrell, a former lapdancer, Janet snapped: "This changes the rules. I signed a contract. They're sleeping right next to me, and if there's noise, I'm walking out!"

Tim Minogue