RICHARD LITTLEJOHN on why the battle for Number 10 is as grubby as reality TV shows

RICHARD LITTLEJOHN on why the battle for Number 10 is as grubby as reality TV shows

How appropriate that the Tory leadership campaign is kicking off just as Love Island returns to our television screens. It's only a couple of weeks si

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How appropriate that the Tory leadership campaign is kicking off just as Love Island returns to our television screens.

It’s only a couple of weeks since MPs announced they would be investigating the programme as part of a wide-ranging inquiry into ‘reality’ TV. The parliamentary probe comes after the deaths of former contestants on both Love Island and The Jeremy Kyle Show, which was subsequently cancelled.

Damian Collins, chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, said that ITV executives would be summoned to Westminster to give evidence about what psychological support was given those who took part in such shows.

Boris Johnson hopes he is on his way into Number 10 - but he might be better off heading to Love Island

Boris Johnson hopes he is on his way into Number 10 - but he might be better off heading to Love Island

Boris Johnson hopes he is on his way into Number 10 – but he might be better off heading to Love Island  

His committee is particularly interested in examining the level of aftercare offered to members of the public suffering from ‘mental health issues’ as a result of appearing on reality TV.

Kyle was accused of extreme cruelty for telling a man accused of infidelity by his girlfriend to take a lie-detector test on air. The man was found dead a few days later.

It followed the suicide of two Love Island contestants, who struggled to cope with the pressures of intense public scrutiny.

These incidents, and the suspicious deaths of a number of other reality TV ‘stars’, prompted the parliamentary inquiry. Collins said: ‘Programmes like [these] risk putting people who might be vulnerable on to a public stage at a time when they are unable to foresee the consequences…’

There had been pressure from Downing Street, MPs and mental health charities to take action against programmes ‘which pitted troubled guests against each other under confrontational questioning’.

That referred to Jeremy Kyle, but could apply equally to any number of mainstream current affairs shows, including Newsnight and Question Time.

I’ve never seen Love Island, obviously, and I doubt many of you have, come to that. Despite the publicity it generates and the disproportionate attention it is receiving from grandstanding MPs, the ITV2 show rarely attracts more than one million viewers.

Who wouldn't pay to watch Bonking Boris trying to cosy up to bikini-clad, blonde bombshell Esther McVey in the Jacuzzi?

Who wouldn't pay to watch Bonking Boris trying to cosy up to bikini-clad, blonde bombshell Esther McVey in the Jacuzzi?

Who wouldn’t pay to watch Bonking Boris trying to cosy up to bikini-clad, blonde bombshell Esther McVey in the Jacuzzi?

Here’s how it works. Ten ‘sexy singletons’ are shipped to a villa on a Mediterranean island, where they make complete spectacles of themselves while the viewing public decides who should be voted off. The last couple standing get to share a £50,000 prize.

Sounds a bit like a variation on Big Brother and I’m A Celebrity, neither of which I’ve ever seen either. But, more to the point, it could also be the model for the Tory leadership race. Ten (or is it 11, now?) hopefuls are taking part in a political beauty contest to see who makes the final two.

For most of the time, they are stuck in the Westminster bubble, arguing among themselves. There doesn’t seem to be much love lost between any of them.

Eventually, they will be whittled down to a final couple, with the winner decided by a vote of Conservative Party members.

If we’ve got to put up with this for the next two-and-a-half months, why not ship them all off to Love Island and let them get on with it? There’d be more than enough exhibitionism, infidelity and intrigue to go round.

Who wouldn’t pay to watch Bonking Boris in his Vilebrequin boxers trying to cosy up to bikini-clad, blonde bombshell Esther McVey in the Jacuzzi?

Ding, dong!

Will sensitive soul Jeremy Hunt bond with sensible Auntie Andrea Leadsom round the firepit? Can charming assassin Michael Gove last five minutes in the kitchen without raiding the cutlery draw and plunging the knife into his nearest rival for the crown?

We could see action man Dominic Raab and self-styled tough guy Sajid Javid squaring up to each other in the gym. Might the hidden cameras catch Afghan conflict veteran Rory Stewart sneaking a quiet puff of opium in the smoking area, while he works out how to bump off Boris in the dead of night?

And just like Love Island there is always the possibility of other surprise contestants, male or female, entering the contest.

It would be a sight for sore eyes to see action man Dominic Raab (above, in his university days)  and self-styled tough guy Sajid Javid squaring up to each other in the gym

It would be a sight for sore eyes to see action man Dominic Raab (above, in his university days)  and self-styled tough guy Sajid Javid squaring up to each other in the gym

It would be a sight for sore eyes to see action man Dominic Raab (above, in his university days)  and self-styled tough guy Sajid Javid squaring up to each other in the gym

Buxom naval reservist Penny Mordaunt (left) has already blurred the line between politics and reality TV, when she wowed everyone in the prime-time diving show, Splash!

Could she slip back into her bathing suit and steal the show by executing a perfect somersault and pike from the top board at the Love Island pool?

One thing is for certain, there will be twists and turns and tears before bedtime. How will the contestants handle the pressure?

Boris is already being subjected to a Jeremy Kyle-style lie detector test, as he is dragged before the courts to answer criminal charges over his claim that voting Leave would free up £350 million a week for the NHS. So far he shows no sign of buckling.

Stand by for frayed tempers as Stewart says he would refuse to serve under Boris, and Jeremy Hunt is put on suicide watch over his refusal to accept a No Deal Brexit. Will they survive the scrutiny or will the inevitable cruelty prove too much for them? And what level of psychological support will be provided for those who fail to make the final cut?

After all, there is plenty of evidence that some of those caught up in the Brexit circus may be suffering from serious mental health issues. It has already cost Theresa May her sanity and her political life. Some compared her treatment at Prime Minister’s Questions to bear-baiting.

Is it really decent for television to keep wheeling out MPs with Brexit Derangement Syndrome for our nightly entertainment?

Or is it time the whole, tawdry show was cancelled and the producers of Love Island were invited to hold a full-scale public inquiry into the effects of Brexit on vulnerable MPs, who appear to have lost all touch with reality?

Wee Burney is cranking up her campaign for a second referendum on Scottish independence.

No surprise there, then. The SNP leader, like her Remainiac counterparts in England, doesn’t respect the result of a democratic vote unless it goes the way she wants.

She’s also demanding a second UK-wide referendum on Brexit. Yet both the EU and Scottish referendums were supposed to settle the respective issues for a generation.

And if the Scots had voted narrowly to break up the Union, the result would have been accepted, albeit reluctantly, by those who were against independence.

But let me ask this: if the Scottish referendum had been 52 to 48 per cent to back independence, would she have still considered the margin in favour too small for victory? Of course not.

It would have been full steam ahead.

And if Westminster MPs had turned round and said that they weren’t going to let Scotland leave, despite the referendum result, she’d have gone berserk.

She’d have been right, too.

Democracy means respecting the votes you don’t win, not just those you do.

Two raccoon dogs have been terrorising a village in Nottinghamshire, attacking a pony and other animals. Police and the RSPCA warned people not to approach them. Raccoon dogs are vicious buggers related to wolves and originated in Asia.

What are they doing in Nottinghamshire? To be honest, I’d never heard of the breed until now.

They live on frogs, toads and assorted birds, but they’re not fussy. Oh, and they stink to high heaven.

Who would want to buy one and keep it as a pet?

Raccoon dogs spread from Asia to Eastern Europe during the last century.

But they seem to have arrived here only fairly recently. Did they come under EU freedom of movement rules, or were they smuggled here in the back of a lorry and immediately given asylum?

 

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