Public barred from Big Brother eviction

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The Independent Online

The public have been barred from tonight's Celebrity Big Brother eviction, it was announced today.

The move follows fears that Jade Goody could be attacked by a hostile crowd following her alleged racist bullying of Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty.

A spokesman for Applause Store, the company which handles ticket allocation, said: "Due to the controversy and heightened feelings surrounding the evictees, there will be no crowd for tonight's eviction."

Hundreds of people who hold tickets for tonight's show will be invited to attend the next eviction instead.

Channel 4 released a statement, which said: "Over the past few days Celebrity Big Brother has generated an intense and, at times, heated public debate which the evicted housemate will be unaware of.

"As a result, Channel 4 and Endemol have taken the decision to conduct tonight's eviction in front of a studio audience and without a crowd."

Meanwhile the Chancellor Gordon Brown, speaking during a visit to Bollywood studios in Mumbai, commented: "I'm not going to tell people how to vote. It's for people to decide for themselves how to vote, but I think a vote for Britain is a vote for tolerance."

He told Sky News: "A vote for Britain is a vote for sending out a message that we are what I think people in India and right round the world think it is right that we are - that is, we are a country of tolerance and a country of fairness.

"I think when people are voting, they do know that when they have complained about certain things that have happened, they are saying we are a country of tolerance and fairness.

"I know that people in India say that Britain is generally a country of tolerance."

Jade is hot favourite to be evicted tonight.

Unaware of the controversy raging outside, she added more fuel to the fire by referring to Shilpa as "Shilpa Poppadom".

She later told Big Brother: "Her name is not Shilpa Harry or Shilpa Tweed or Shilpa Mackintosh. She is Indian so will have an Indian name. No racial anything.

"She is Indian, thinking of an Indian name and only thing I could think of was Indian food. Wasn't racial at all. It wasn't to offend any Indian out there.

"Everyone knows I don't like her. She don't like me. What I said about her was not meant in a racial way - it's not acceptable if done in that way. Mine wasn't done in that way. If it's offended any Indians out there I apologise."

Shilpa has backtracked and said her row with Jade over Oxo cubes was not racially motivated - but she remains unaware of the comments made behind her back by Jade, Danielle and S Club 7 star Jo O'Meara.

Both Jade and Danielle made a belated apology to Shilpa last night for their behaviour.

Channel 4 was dealt a severe blow yesterday when The Carphone Warehouse suspended its £3 million sponsorship deal for the show.

Following criticism that the broadcaster was making money out of the race row, Channel 4 announced it will donate profits from tonight's eviction phone vote to charity.

But it is too little, too late for some critics.

Trevor Phillips, Chair of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, said: "What we are seeing is a noxious brew of old-fashioned class conflict, straightforward bullying, ignorance and quite vicious racial bigotry. It is outrageous, and it is unpleasant.

"I'm glad Channel 4 has finally decided to take some action... it is hard to see why the channel stood by for four days.

"It maybe that Shilpa Shetty herself is unaware of much of what has been said behind her back, but some housemates' comments about her were racist.

"But the reason so many people are disturbed by what they have seen is that the programme is holding up a mirror to our society and few of us like what we see."

He added: "We need to confront questions much larger than whether we approve of a TV programme and we have to ask ourselves whether we are as tolerant a society as we'd like it to be.

"This programme has laid bare the dark heart of private prejudice that all too often sits behind the public veneer of tolerance and it tells us we still have work to do to feel at ease with our diversity."

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell has branded the show "disgusting", saying: "It is racism being presented as entertainment."

And former Tory minister Edwina Currie condemned the behaviour of Jade, Danielle and Jo.

"They are crude young women having a go at another young woman in the most horrendous fashion," she told BBC1's Question Time.

"She is a beautiful young lady and they are slags."

Complaints to media watchdog Ofcom have now reached 38,000.

Channel 4's chief executive Andy Duncan remained defiant yesterday, saying he was "not ashamed of what was broadcast, quite the opposite".

The race row has revived viewing figures, which were up to 5.7 million for last night's episode.