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Ann Widdecombe: How to survive in reality TV

Ann Widdecombe
Ann Widdecombe
for the Politics Show

Two politicians - MEP Robert Kilroy-Silk and former Lib Dem London mayoral candidate Brian Paddick - are about to go into the jungle for "I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here".

We asked Ann Widdecombe MP, the former Minister and reality TV contestant, to give them some advice on how to survive...

Politicians need to be very careful about what they do. And never more so than when considering reality TV shows.

I've had offers from all sorts, including Big Brother, Strictly Come Dancing and I'm a Celebrity┐ Get Me Out Of Here. But I've rejected them, because I would not feel comfortable.

Initially I rejected Celebrity Fit Club, too, but once they agreed that I wouldn't have to do anything against my will, I changed my mind.

Getting to know you

As a politician, these sorts of shows allow an audience to get to know you and to see you as more human. That means the next time you do something serious, they're more inclined to listen to what you have to say.

Ann's rules: how to survive:
  • Make your judgement carefully
  • Limit the risks
  • Retain control, particularly of the 'dignity factor'
  • Let the public see you as more human

It's the same reason that I've also appeared on Have I Got News For You and Countdown. They give you the chance to make the audience think of you as a real person, like them.

And it does work. When I did my film about benefits abuse, 4 million people tuned in. It's very sad to say, but if I had been speaking in the House of Commons on the same subject, I would have been lucky to get 40 people listening. This is about mass communication.

A risky venture

I'm a politician in the Westminster jungle get me out of here..!

Of course, going on one of these shows is always a risk. But you need to limit that risk, and the key to that is retaining control.

It is what I call the 'dignity factor'. In my view that is where George Galloway went wrong when he appeared on Big Brother - he should have set parameters for what he would do.

This year it will be interesting to see how Brian Paddick and Robert Kilroy-Silk come across. But with all those unknown challenges, it would not be for me.

Ann Widdecombe is the MP for Maidstone and the Weald, and a former Conservative Minister.

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