Dugdale in the Jungle: Get Her Out of There | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Dugdale in the Jungle: Get Her Out of There

Comment Writer Niamh Brennan argues politicians on reality shows such as 'I'm a Celeb' needs to stop

Last week it was announced that Kezia Dugdale, former Scottish Labour leader, would be taking part in the reality TV competition I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!

This came as a surprise to many, and understandably so. Dugdale only resigned as leader of Scottish Labour in August, making it a very quick transition from an intense position of authority to what many would consider a menial and unimportant TV show. The news resulted in a very mixed reception. As a politician, she is paid by taxpayer money, and therefore is expected to work for the benefit of those taxpayers. Therefore, why is she appearing on a TV show for three weeks? Does that really benefit her party?  Are taxpayers simply paying for her to do a three-week publicity stunt? It seems to ludicrous to suggest, but it’s difficult to view it in any other way.

Are taxpayers simply paying for her to do a three-week publicity stunt?

This is not the first time that a sitting public representative has partaken in the programme.  Conservative MP Nadine Dorries was suspended after she took part in the competition in 2012, with similar backlash to Dugdale. So why do politicians enter the jungle knowing the possible consequences, and what do they hope it will achieve?

Indeed, politicians are still people, they should be allowed to spend their time how they wish, but the selling point of the show is that the participants are celebrities. To consider politicians as celebrities in the same way you would consider a soap actor, pop stair or retired footballer to be ones seems inconsistent. Those in the latter categories go into their line of work knowing that their main purpose it to entertain. In fact, they have no obligations to the wider community to do anything but entertain. Therefore, they seem well-placed being on a television show which has this as its prime goal.

To consider politicians as celebrities in the same way you would consider a soap actor, pop stair or retired footballer to be ones seems inconsistent

Politicians, on the other hand, become household names due to their commitment to the public. They only become a ‘celebrity’ by default of their position in helping provide and benefit the country; people know them because of the service they are providing to them.

To therefore abandon the duties of your position, and to act as if you are something of entertainment value instead of a representative of the Labour voters of the country appears to go directly against the very reason you have become well known in the first place.

There needs to be a clear division in the entertainment sector. Just because your name is known, it does not mean that you should act in the same way as someone who is well known for their acting profession. There is a responsibility that comes along with the title of MSP that is clearly being disregarded by Dugdale in her appearing on the show, and one that I believe should not be ignored.

We are currently living in the ‘Jeremy Corbyn’ era of politics, wherein politicians are making themselves more open to the younger generations, and to a large extent becoming well known for more than just their ideological standpoints. This increasing generational interest in politics is attempting to ‘make politics cool again,’ which is important to the wellbeing of our country, but alongside it comes a blurring of the boundaries between the political and celebrity.

There is an increasing pressure on politicians to be likeable. Them becoming more likeable creates an enjoyment in engaging with politics, one that can often be confused with the enjoyment of popular entertainment. Clearly, however, this divide must be upheld. Politicians are not here to entertain; the very basis of their job means that they should be helping their country and people in it.

There is a responsibility that comes along with the title of MSP that is clearly being disregarded by Dugdale in her appearing on the show

Just because Kezia Dugdale was asked to take part in I’m a Celebrity does not mean that she should have done so. Ethically speaking she seems to be taking advantage of her position of public interest, and this evokes many questions that we deserve answers to: where will Dugdale use her money from competing? Will she remain as a Labour politician considering her seeming lack of commitment to her role?

There are many questions that we need answered before we can make a final judgement about how wrong it is for a politician to be treated as a celebrity, but ultimately there is a clear tension when considering the facts of her situation that would suggest that it is not okay.



Published

5th December 2017 at 9:00 am



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