As Nadine Dorries limps home nursing her tick bites and gagging back the residually bilious tides of ostrich anus, she arrives to a social movement known as post-junglism. No, it isn’t a music scene – it’s a condition that means we automatically hate people from the reality TV show I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!. It can also apply, in extreme cases, to former Big Brother contestants. Anyone can succumb to it – even the most open-minded of people, even people who don’t watch TV. But the prime cause of it is always a woman. Those bloody women who go on reality shows.
We don’t mind the men who do it: most of the time we vote for them and they win and then we all say, “Oh, worra decent bloke”, and wipe away a tear. But the women are harpies, “mentalists”, strident and unpleasant ball-busters with an agenda, an eye on the prize and a thirst for publicity. Because that guy from Towie who came second last year went on out of the goodness of his heart, paying no heed to the ratings and that wad of jungly cash. Obviously.
But the ones we really reserve our ire for are the lady MPs who try out the format. Nadine Dorries, voted off the show this week, has been the subject of vitriol and mockery from every quarter ever since she went out there. Compare the national reaction to what happened when Lembit Opik went on the same show. Nothing, a few titters, some Cheeky Girls jokes. OK, he wasn’t a sitting MP, but he was rubbish; at least Dorries could light a fire.
Perhaps that’s a bad example, because we expect so little from Opik anyway. But what about when Vince Cable was swirling round the Strictly dancefloor weeks after buggering up the BSkyB deal? If that wasn’t fiddling while Rome burned, I don’t know what is, but nobody seemed half as morally thunderstruck by that as they are by Dorries.
It’s like the torrents of abuse that Sally Bercow received – yes, not an MP but a woman in the political sphere nevertheless – the accusations of being patronising, snobbish and “posh”, when she appeared on Celebrity Big Brother. And the comparisons with a sack of potatoes that Ann Widdecombe garnered after appearing on Strictly Come Dancing which, although true, were Not Very Nice.
It’s a strange double standard during an era in which we have greedily encouraged politicians to become more human (blame it on Tony Blair’s denim shirt) that the men can reveal their feet of clay, but the women must be professional, suited and seated at all times. I never foresaw an instance in which I might defend Dorries, vile promulgator of odious and arcane views on abortion, and none of this makes me like her any more. But it’s striking, the difference in reaction to her and, say, George Galloway pretending to be a cat.
“We’re told to go where the voters are,” she reasoned before she jetted off, seemingly antithetically, to Australia. But she hasn’t got it entirely wrong: I’m a Celebrity has more viewers than BBC Parliament; it makes for more water-cooler conversations than a rant spot on Any Questions?. Clearly, the producers at ITV weren’t about to allow her to take over the airwaves, agitprop-style, but with a format that derives much of its hold on the nation from crazed outbursts and the espousal of rather “extreme” (that’s the polite word) opinions, she stood a good chance of being heard at some point – and possibly repeatedly rerun on chat shows and news programmes.
Let us not forget Shilpa Shettygate: unedited footage of stupid people saying stupid things quite often makes up the bulk of our news rosters. So the indignation about Dorries absconding from her duties, being disrespectful to her constituents and the electorate, and forgetting her priorities is merely a handy shorthand for us already disliking her intensely. Had she been an MP we agreed with, held in esteem or simply didn’t mind, she’d have been a ray of sunshine on the show, a humane presence in Westminster when she came back – ultimately, one of us.
Don't give your loved one a onesie this Christmas
It's the British Fashion Awards next week, but I'm flummoxed as to what we can possibly have to celebrate sartorially as a nation given the news, on the one hand, that the "onesie" (an all-in-one suit made from technofleece) is set to be the biggest-selling Christmas gift, and, on the other, that sales of "sexy bedroom outfits" have gone up 263 per cent in the past month.
Who is buying this stuff? I can't help but feel that the craze for loungewear is the sort of thing that future generations will look back at and see either as an uncouth disgrace, (should our children's children's children be a race of ultra-formal neo-Victorians - here's hoping) or as the beginning of the end (should they, more likely, turn into a race of slobs who only ever stand up to empty their onesies of effluent).
Still, it makes a nice change for the best-selling Christmas gift to be: a) under a tenner; and b) not a talking Elmo doll.