This belated Christmas present for tabloid editors, courtesy of Channel 4’s Celebrity Big Brother, offers one of the most bizarre collections of individuals ever seen together on screen, even by the standards of reality television.
By comparison, other contestants such as Faria Alam, famed for her affair with England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, and glamour model Jodie Marsh seem positively mundane by comparison.
So far, the greatest controversy has surrounded the presence of Respect MP George Galloway, despite the presence in the house of Michael Barrymore.
Barrymore’s appearance on the show marks his TV comeback four years after partygoer Stuart Lubbock was found dead in the star’s pool.
Bookmakers yesterday made Barrymore the favourite to win. An ecstatic reception from the crowd has changed his odds to just 3/1 despite a series of bizarre incidents, including an attempt to gouge the eyes out of a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II.
Yesterday in a discussion about his troubled life, Barrymore claimed the events of the past few years have made him a “better person.” The 53-year-old made a bid to elicit sympathy from fellow housemates by discussing the death of his former wife Cheryl and revealing his desire to become a dad.
Mr Galloway, however, was yesterday accused of betraying his Muslim constituents for appearing on Celebrity Big Brother when Parliament is due to resume sitting on Monday.
The Respect Party politician came under fire from a dozen local residents who staged a protest outside his office in East London.
They said he had abandoned his responsibilities in Bethnal Green and Bow and demanded he give back his MP’s pay for the time he is in the house.
A Muslim voter, who wanted to be known only as Ali, said Mr Galloway was setting a bad example to Muslim children.
But the MP, whose favourite things are “my daughter, sunbathing and sex”, said before entering the house: “It’s good for politics. I believe that politicians should use every opportunity to communicate with people.”
His previous TV highlights include a barnstorming performance when he confronted a US senate committee investigating allegations he had benefited from Iraq’s oil for food programme and a meeting with Saddam Hussein where he told the Iraqi dictator: “Sir, I salute your strength, courage and indefatigability.”
Mr Galloway remains popular with many anti-war activists, but was thrown out of the British Labour party for urging British troops to disobey orders. He has also praised the Iraqi resistance. A UN investigation into corruption in the oil-for-food programme also found that he had been granted oil allocations for 23 million barrels from 1999 to 2003 by the Ba’athist regime.
However, TV bosses are unlikely to care if they get to screen the man nicknamed ‘Gorgeous George’ discussing the political situation in the Middle East with “fake celebrity” Chantelle Houghton, a former “bike babe”, who has to convince the others she is a genuine star.