Brits are so over Brexit that politicians are scheduling debates around reality TV

May vs. Corbyn… or celebrities eating bugs—that’s Britain’s choice.
May vs. Corbyn… or celebrities eating bugs—that’s Britain’s choice.
Image: John Stillwell/Pool via Reuters
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The reality TV series I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! is a cultural touchstone in the UK. Almost 14 million people tuned in for this season’s first episode of the long-running show, which strands British celebrities in the Australian jungle for a series of gruesome trials, from eating live spiders to rummaging through a tank of fish guts. All told, the show has never been more popular—and British politicians know that the twists and turns of Brexit are no match for it.

Ahead of the UK parliament’s vote on prime minister Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal on Dec. 11, May has agreed to participate in a televised debate with Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposing Labour Party. But scheduling it is proving tricky. While May has agreed to appear on a BBC debate on Sunday, Dec. 9, Corbyn isn’t keen. He wants another network, ITV, to screen the program to ensure that their debate doesn’t clash with I’m A Celebrity, which also airs its final episode that evening.

Appearing on This Morning, the Labour leader said that ITV’s proposed debate “seems like a sensible one” as it would allow viewers to watch both the debate and I’m a Celebrity. He went on to admit that he’d also like to be able to watch the show himself.

Reality TV would likely beat politics in the ratings at the best of times. But after two-and-a-half years of listening to politicians argue about Brexit, Brits seem to be increasingly checked out on the issue. An August survey (pdf) conducted by Deltapoll, for example, found that Brits on both side of the debate said they were bored by Brexit.

Moreover, while May is campaigning around the country to win support for her Brexit deal, Brits don’t actually get a say on whether this deal will pass. Members of parliament will decide the fate of the deal in just under two weeks’ time. And a debate between May and Corbyn may seem particularly uninteresting to many potential viewers, given that the politicians’ views are actually fairly similar. They both voted Remain in the 2016 referendum. Both are now committed to “honoring” the result, despite calls for a second vote. And they’re both pushing for what many Brexiteers would write off as a “soft Brexit.”

There seems little to tempt the British public to watch. With I’m a Celebrity, at least there’ll actually be a winner. On Brexit, it seems more likely that everyone will lose.