UK Politics

Big Brother

I don’t think we’ve had a ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ piece on Harry’s Place so far, but there’s an MP involved now, so it must be serious if the scent of free electoral publicity has wafted its way to the House of Commons.

Worse still for Channel 4, Carphone Warehouse might review its lucrative multimillion-pound sponsorship forcing the broadcaster to do something.

The count is all over the place. If you read the Metro this morning, 20,000 people are complaining. Elsewhere its 10,000, but whatever the number it has five digits and reality TV is in for a welcome kicking.

Although Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty, the focus of the alleged racist abuse, has not yet complained to the outside world it does appear she is being picked on with some racism thrown in to boot. She has, however, been reduced to tears by her gang of white working class tormentors and their manifest conservatism.

It was bound to happen you throw in morons like Jade (is it worth mentioning how sad it is that someone celebrates what a dimwit they are? Probably not), coupled with a couple of newly acquired minor celeb side kicks in the Jo O’Meara, who was in S-Club (not that there is anything wrong with Romford… OK now you mention it), Goody’s boyfriend Jack Tweed and disgraced former Miss Great Britain Danielle Lloyd.

Keith Vaz MP yesterday drafted an early day motion in the Commons after constituents in his Leicester East constituency contacted him. He was on Channel 4 News last night calling for the broadcaster to intervene and to set higher standards, although a vox pop done before his segment aired had several members of the public saying it was more bullying and ignorance than racism.

The text of the early day motion reads: “This house views with concern the comments made about’ Big Brother’ contestant Shilpa Shetty by other housemates; believes that ‘Big Brother’ has a role to play in preventing racist behaviour in the ‘Big Brother’ house; regrets that these comments have been made; and calls on the programme to take urgent action to remind housemates that racist behaviour is unacceptable.”

It is on course to beating ‘Jerry Springer: the Opera’, which racked up almost 9,000 complaints when it aired, but had already picked up more than 55,000 before it aired. Those Christians know to hit the phone (should you ever be holding a telethon).

Goody has said such things to Shilpa as “She makes me feel sick. She makes my skin crawl.” Her boyfriend Tweed is thought by some to have called her a “Paki” although what it was exactly he called her was bleeped out by Channel 4. The broadcaster said it wasn’t racist abuse and what he actually called her was a “cunt”. Well that’s all right then. Lloyd called her “a dog” and also accused of her wanting to be “white”. This related to use of cream to bleach her facial hair.

Channel 4 is so far doing nothing and says that much of the furore has arisen after misreporting of the exchange between Goody and Tweed (“she makes my skin crawl”. However, a sponsor getting jittery could change all of that.

Gordon adds: With the conservatism, what I was getting at that was elements of the working class can be conservative. It wasn’t a bash the white working class comment, which has got it in the neck recently over the whole killer dog tabloid frenzy among other things. And it has nothing to with voting, or being big C, Conservative. I have knocked on doors in the past while canvassing for Labour candidates who happen to be Asian and got responses such as “I’ve voted Labour all my life, but I’m not voting for that Paki”.

I don’t think it is a clear cut racists issue. As Venichka posted above regarding Romford schools- “Schools there [in Romford] specifically stated that it failed to prepare pupils for the multicultural society that exists outside its doors” – it can be cultural ignorance.

UPDATE by David T

In further racism-related news, Janet Street-Porter has been arrested over an allegation she racially abused another woman”.

Janet Street Porter was formerly in a four year relationship with the DJ and children’s tv presenter, “Normski”.

I imagine that this will be a source of glee for Scott Burgess.

UPDATE by Gordon January 18: After days of dithering and trying to weather the storm and sidestepping the issue Andy Duncan, Channel 4’s chief executive, has made the following statement. Although it is worth noting this was put out by C4 directly after Carphone Warehouse suspended its Celeb Big Brother sponsorship

“The latest series of Celebrity Big Brother has strayed into particularly controversial territory – the issue of racism and whether or not it remains ingrained in British attitudes despite all the progress we have apparently made towards becoming a truly multi-cultural society.

“The level of complaint and comment shows the programme has touched a real nerve.

“The debate has been heated, the viewing has at times been uncomfortable but, in my view, it is unquestionably a good thing that the programme has raised these issues and provoked such a debate. These attitudes, however distasteful, do persist – we need to confront that truth.

“What constitutes racism is a complex question. We have been monitoring extremely carefully events in the house and have reached the view that we cannot with certainty say that the comments directed at Shilpa have been racially motivated or whether they stem from broader cultural and social differences.

“We have already intervened with Danielle and, as viewers will see tonight, again with Jade where we felt their comments might be construed to have racist overtones. Producers also spoke to Shilpa today who said she did not feel that behaviour towards her was racist.

“We will not hesitate to intervene again if apparently racist behaviour occurs.

“Big Brother’s unique strength is that it is ultimately the public who will decide whether or not the behaviour of certain contestants has been unacceptable.

“Tomorrow night Jade and Shilpa will face the public vote. The British public has the opportunity to cut through the claim and counter-claim and pass its judgement on the events of the last week.”

UPDATE by Gordon January 19: As this is the thread that will not die, here’s some more. India Tourism Office has run an open letter to Jade Goody and “friends” today in a number of the nationals including the Times, Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Independent, Metro, and Evening Standard.

The India Tourism Office is welcoming Jade and her friends to experience India for themselves.

Apparently, she has already been. The bottles for her perfume (pulled from the shelves of The Perfume Shop yesterday) were made in India and she went and met the factory manager.

She is 50-1 odds on favourite to go, you wouldn’t really want to be her walking out. They have a safe house for her.