Commentary

Key personal & political events

2005 Dec 6 Tu
Commentary (The Times)

MT: “Thatcher takes jungle seat with yet another landslide victory” (Carol Thatcher wins “I&#146m a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!”)

Document type: Press
Document kind: Article
Venue: -
Source: The Times , 8 December 2005
Journalist: Ben Hoyle & Nicola Woolcock, The Times
Editorial comments: -
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 516 words
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Autobiography (marriage & children)

Thatcher takes jungle seat with yet another landslide victory

By Ben Hoyle and Nicola Woolcock

THE voters may have loved Baroness Thatcher, but her indomitable daughter Carol last night polled far more personal votes in one evening than her mother managed in 40 years in politics.

A delighted Ms Thatcher became the surprise victor of the fifth series of ITV’s I’m a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out Of Here, an achievement that saw her crowned Queen of the Jungle and will provide a huge boost to her public profile.

A 33-1 outsider at the start of the gruelling reality TV show, Ms Thatcher developed an irresistible momentum familiar to anyone who observed her mother’s historic challenge for the leadership of the Conservative Party in 1975 and three subsequent general election triumphs.

But the former Prime Minister was unaware of her daughter’s success; as tension mounted before the results were announced, the freelance journalist told her fellow campers: “I left my mother’s home phone number behind so I don’t even know her number. She doesn’t know I’m here so she won’t notice.”

She added: “I normally left pre-poll jitters to other members of my family. I thought my days of election nerves were long-gone. It seems this is a bit of a cliff-hanger.”

In her political career, Baroness Thatcher saw off Ted Heath and then trampled on the dreams of Labour’s James Callaghan, Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock.

Not everyone will agree that her daughter’s rivals in the final round were of a similar intellectual stature.

Sid Owen, the former EastEnders actor, admitted to “never really” reading a whole script and Sheree Murphy, who was once in Emmerdale, continually embarrassed her husband, the Liverpool footballer Harry Kewell, by praising his “peachy bum”, letting slip his love of facials and claiming that he wants to leave his club to play on the Continent.

About 1.5 million people voted in the final of the programme, in which Ms Thatcher faced one last Bushtucker trial — successfully retrieving five stars from a box full of snakes.

Ms Thatcher received more than 500,000 votes, at least double the 252,801 cast for her mother by her constituents between 1950 and 1987.

She told the presenters Ant and Dec that she was “amazed, astonished and gobsmacked” to win. She added in stoic fashion: “I was brought up to get on with it, you will not be surprised to hear.”

Appearing on the show had been a “life-enhancing experience”, she said. Over the previous two weeks Ms Thatcher, 52, outlasted a motley assembly of has-been soap stars, comedians, television presenters and pop stars. After spending her life in the shadow of her famous family, she was perhaps the least well known of this desperate group at the start of the series.

But her unflinching honesty, ready humour and doughty toughness rapidly endeared her to the eight million viewers and helped her to outmanoeuvre better known personalities such as Cannon and Ball, the 1980s comedy duo, Jenny Frost from Atomic Kitten, and David Dickinson, the perma-tanned Bargain Hunt presenter.

Her time in the jungle was an almost constant cycle of humiliation, which she embraced gamely every time.

She threw up over herself and her tandem skydiver after a terrifying parachute jump into the camp and chewed fish eyes, worms, kangaroo’s testicles and a wallaby’s penis when she was instructed to in one of the show’s notorious Bushtucker trials. However it was the grainy footage of the former Prime Minister’s daughter relieving herself in the camp at night that really swung the country behind her.

Ms Thatcher indulged her fellow contestants’ curiosity about her family, even though she has previously stated that she had had a difficult childhood in which her twin brother, Mark, recently placed under house arrest for his involvement in an attempted coup in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea, was the favoured offspring. She revealed that she has a T-shirt with the slogan: “My Mum Was An Iron Lady”, and praised her “marvellous” father, the late Sir Denis Thatcher.

“He used to pour a large gin and tonic and, if things got really bad, hold the tonic,” she said.

But she admitted that her mother’s political career had taken its toll. When Jimmy Osmond, the youngest of the singing Osmond family, asked what Baroness Thatcher did for fun now, she replied: “Not a lot. She’s not very well, She’s got to a ripe old age really and if you hold down that sort of job for eleven-and-a-half years, something’s going to blow a gasket on you isn’t it?” She now succeeds the DJ Tony Blackburn, the retired cricketer Phil Tufnell, the singer Kerry Katona and the comedian Joe Pasquale as a winner on the show. Her co-stars had nothing but praise for the winner. Osmond said that she was “bigger than life”.

Ms Thatcher’s triumph will cost bookmakers £250,000, according to Ladbrokes. William Hill said that she was 50-1 to become an MP and 500-1 to become Prime Minister. She was rumoured to have been paid £40,000 to appear on the show — that figure is now likely to be dwarfed by a flood of lucrative endorsements and a TV presenting deal.

Ms Thatcher may have been right when she described herself to her fellow campmates as a “roaming singleton” who was “past my sell-by date for that sort of thing”. But she was certainly wrong when she added: “By the time I get back to England, no one will give a fig about me.”

IRON LEGACY

  • Total number of  votes that Margaret Thatcher won in her two parliamentary constituencies (Dartford and Finchley, 1950-87): 252,801
  • Number of votes in Tory leadership battle, 1975: 146
  • Total Tory vote in 1979, 1983 and 1987 elections as leader: 40.4 million