Kilroy-Silk 'is lined up' to attempt TV rehab on 'Celebrity Big Brother'

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The Independent Online

He disappeared from British television screens when he was sacked by the BBC for describing Arabs as "suicide-bombers, limb-amputators [and] women-repressors".

But now Robert Kilroy-Silk, 64, is being tipped to return from the comparative obscurity of the European Parliament, where he represents the East Midlands, to appear on Celebrity Big Brother.

This year's series - the fifth - starts on Wednesday and Channel 4 is trying to keep the identities of the house entrants a closely guarded secret. Among the celebrities reported to be lined up for inclusion are Julie Goodyear, who played the barmaid Bet Lynch in Coronation Street for a quarter of a century, the rapper Lil' Kim, and Leo Sayer, the pop singer.

But it would be a remarkable attempt at television rehabilitation if, as one newspaper reported yesterday, Kilroy-Silk were to join the others.

A proud man, he was a politics lecturer and Labour MP before presenting his own show, Kilroy, for 18 years, earning a reported £600,000 a year.

But he found himself in the eye of a storm of recrimination when the Sunday Express published - or, to be more accurate, re-printed by accident - a column with the heading: "We owe Arabs nothing". Writing about the so-called "war on terror" he suggested that Arab countries were "not exactly shining examples of civilisation", and many were run by murderous regimes and had not earned respect.

After condemnation from the Muslim Council of Britain and the Commission for Racial Equality, he subsequently said he regretted the offence caused and did not believe that all Arabs were suicide bombers. He insisted he was strongly anti-racist and that he had presented ethnic minorities in a positive light on his television show.

But the BBC ended his programme because of the furore, leaving Kilroy-Silk to concentrate on his equally controversial political career. No longer a member of the Labour Party, he joined the Eurosceptic UKIP and was elected to the European Parliament, but fell out with his UKIP colleagues and briefly headed a new party, Veritas.

Television commentators have said it will be tough for this year's Celebrity Big Brother to pull off as many surprises as last year's show.

The mix of the contestants is crucial. Shilpa Shetty, a star of Bollywood who is little known in Britain outside Asian audiences, has been reportedly signed up. Others rumoured to be joining in include Paul Michael Glaser, a star of the television series Starsky and Hutch, Dirk Benedict of The A-Team, and Jermaine Jackson, one of Michael's brothers in the Jackson Five.

Another favourite is Danielle Lloyd, dethroned from the Miss UK title after it was revealed one of the competition's judges, the footballer Teddy Sheringham, was dating her.

History of the show

* Celebrity Big Brother 1

Produced in 2001 to raise money for Comic Relief, it lasted just eight days. Contestants included Vanessa Feltz, who seemed to have a mental breakdown. Jack Dee narrowly beat Claire Sweeney to win.

* Celebrity Big Brother 2

It returned in 2002 raising funds for four charities. Mark Owen of Take That beat celebrities including Anne Diamond, Melinda Messenger, Les Dennis and the musician Goldie.

* Celebrity Big Brother 3

In 2005, Brigitte Neilsen, ex-wife of Sly Stallone, joined her former mother-in-law, Jackie Stallone. Bez of Happy Mondays won.

* Celebrity Big Brother 4

The Essex girl Chantelle Houghton tried to convince contestants, including Michael Barrymore, that she was a star. She did, and won.

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