On the Politics Show, Sunday 16 November 2008, Jon Sopel interviewed Ann Widdecombe and Christine Hamilton.
JON SOPEL: Now, as if the political jungle weren't a vicious enough place to be, it emerged this week that two politicians are entering the real one, as the line-up was unveiled for I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. Well, Robert Kilroy-Silk, the independent MEP and Brian Paddick, the former Liberal Democrat candidate to be mayor of London will be trying their luck in the bush public trials. Why do it though, is it ever a good idea for politicians to tangle with reality television? A chanceto get your message or across or undignified dumbing-down? Well to discuss this, I'm joined now by two political women who've taken on reality TV. Christine Hamilton, who finished third in the first series of I'm a Celebrity and Ann Widdecombe the Conservative MP who appeared on Celebrity Fit Club.
CHRISTINE HAMILTON: Isn't Ann wonderful, I mean that was a fabulous clip.
JON SOPEL: Ann, so you just wouldn't do what was asked of you. Does that make you more successful when you're doing these sort of things.
ANN WIDDECOMBE: I do think you have to set parameters before you start and I wouldn't have done the Celebrity Fit Club without a clear understanding that I didn't have to do anything that I didn't want to do because I think there are limits. There are big, big positives to going on these shows but there are limits. The positive bit is you get known. When you're next doing the serious politics, people are more willing to listen. The great negative is that if you go too far and make an absolute fool of yourself, you actually, you've dumbed down the whole thing.
JON SOPEL: Why does George Galloway spring in to my mind when you say you get (interjection)
ANN WIDDECOMBE: He should never have done Big Brother. I've turned down Big Brother more times than I've had hot dinners.
JON SOPEL: Christine.
CHRISTINE HAMILTON: I've turned down Big Brother too. I think that is ? I think you only do it, I mean Ann is one of the few people, one of the few serious politicians who actually can do it and got away with it brilliantly. But frankly, you're mad to do it unless you're a complete maverick which Kilroy-Silk is, which Galloway is, which - I don't know about Paddick, goodness knows why he's doing it. I hope he's more interesting in the jungle than he was when he was candidate for mayor, cos it will be like watching paint dry
Ann: wouldn't be difficult would it?
CHRISTINE HAMILTON: you don't know, you're completely bonkers to do certainly the sort of big reality ones like Big Brother and Celebrity, where you are caged up.
ANN WIDDECOMBE: Strictly Come Dancing is another I've turned down on several occasions.
JON SOPEL: Why do it at all. You know, here you are, you've spent years in parliament serious politician, you want (interjection) to be taken seriously on a whole range of issues (interjection)
ANN WIDDECOMBE: Yeah, I'll, tell you exactly why I do it at all. When I did a programme on benefits abuse, I got four million viewers but if I'd made the same speech in the House of Commons, I would be lucky that forty people outside the House of Commons knew anything about it. Why did four million viewers tune in? Because they already knew me, because I have taken the risks and done things like Have I Got News For You, Fit Club, other things of that sort. But I haven't done the ones that I think would be going too far and it's a question of judgment.
JON SOPEL: So Christine, where is the line, what is the right side of it. Where is it good to do it. What would you say if you were a politician who's mulling this over - for goodness sake, don't be so stupid.
CHRISTINE HAMILTON: Well certainly, I think if you want to have sort of a future in politics don't do the Jungle, don't do Big Brother, don't do Strictly. Something like Have I Got News For You, which is not - it's on the sort of cusp of reality, you've got to be quite clever to get away with that. Boris gets away with it but then Boris is Boris. Take something like Millionaire, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, which is not really reality but it's the same sort of thing, you can be made to look a complete and utter prat within two questions on Millionaire, I know, because it's happened to me. I think if you want to be taken seriously you have to probably not do anything like that.
JON SOPEL: It's very interesting to (interjection) listening to you talk about it, you're talking in the telly shorthand a bit, you know, Celebrity, Strictly. Doesn't it turn you in to sort of telly tarts.
CHRISTINE HAMILTON: Well I, I call myself a media butterfly. If you don't like me, you can call me a media tart, but I mean I'm so completely out of politics now, I mean I've left the artificial world of Westminster for the real world of tele and show biz. It's much more fun. So I'm a complete, I am a media butterfly.
ANN WIDDECOMBE: Compare, as I said earlier, four million to forty and if you want mass communication, you have got to use the means of mass communication, which is television. So of course to a certain extent, you have to play to television rules.
JON SOPEL: Who would like to see on, who would you like to see of the front bench, the Conservative Party or the Labour government, to appear in a show and which one.
CHRISTINE HAMILTON: Well funnily enough, in the Green Room I was watching Mr Darling speaking very studiously and carefully about the economy and I thought, wouldn't it be wonderful to see him in the jungle.
JON SOPEL: Could you
ANN WIDDECOMBE: I'd most like to see Gordon Brown on Strictly Come Dancing. It would be the only time he cheered the nation up.
CHRISTINE HAMILTON: I'd like to see George Osborne on one of them two, cos he's the man of the month at the moment.
JON SOPEL: What about John Sergeant, my former colleague?
ANN WIDDECOMBE: Doing absolutely brilliantly because what he's doing is appealing to the masses over those snobby judges and the masses like him. Good.
CHRISTINE HAMILTON: You can reach out on a lot of these programmes, but I think, I mean what is Kilroy-Silk doing, goodness knows, he clearly doesn't want a future in politics, I mean he's about to become an ex MEP (overlaps)
JON SOPEL: This is fabulous. We could sit here for hours and talk but I think we've done it. So thank you both of you very much indeed for being with us here on the Politics Show.
CHRISTINE HAMILTON: To answer the question, I would say, no don't do it, if you're a politician, unless you're Ann Widdecombe.
JON SOPEL: There you are, advice has been given.
END OF INTERVIEW
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The Politics Show Sunday 16 November 2008 at 12:00 GMT on BBC One.
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