Brian Paddick writes… I’m not a celebrity: should I have got me in there?

If there is a consistent theme throughout my life, it is following ‘high risk strategies’. Joining an overtly homophobic police service knowing I was gay, suggesting the police took a more liberal stance on illegal drugs, challenging Sir Ian Blair over the Stockwell shooting, and giving evidence for the family in the De Menezes inquest, were not the easiest or safest routes to take.

Having been approached by both the Tories and the Liberal Democrats to be their candidate for the 2008 Mayor of London election, following my conscience, my passion and my deeply held beliefs, was also not the easiest or the safest route to take. Whatever the pathologists might think, we took over 875,000 first and second preference votes, when the winner secured just over 1.2m.

So what came over me when I decided to participate in the ITV programme I’m a Celebrity … Get me Out of Here? Amongst other things, 15p from every telephone call made to the programme – and there were millions of calls – goes to charity. We do not know the final figures yet but Lambeth Crime Prevention Trust will be benefitting, hopefully substantially, from my participation in the programme. Commentators have speculated that my participation even boosted the viewing figures, possibly amongst potential Lib Dem voters.

Yes, there are risks associated with participation. You are totally isolated from the outside world and your loved-ones, given insufficient food (I lost 9 kg/1½ stone in 17 days) and you do not get enough sleep. You get far more emotional than you might otherwise be, and you have to spend 24/7 with some very irritating people. You participate in ‘trials’, some of which can be humiliating (mine, thankfully, were not).

It is also a programme that is on television for an hour and a half, every day for three weeks, on prime-time television, attracting over seven million viewers every day. Naively, perhaps, I felt this was an opportunity to show a much wider public that Liberal Democrat politicians are actually human, just how hard-working us Liberal Democrats are, how much we care about other people and that we are far from the negative stereotype our critics portray us as. Whether I was successful or not is for others to judge, but I believe I left with my dignity intact. The feedback I have had personally, via Facebook and elsewhere, appears to support that view (I apparently did the gay cause no harm either).

Can I be taken seriously anymore after my ‘antics’? Judging from my appearances on BBC Radio 4’s The Today Programme, the BBC News channel, BBC London radio and television, and BBC Radio Five Live since my return from ‘the jungle’, commenting on crime and policing issues, the answer would appear to be “yes”.

I have no intention of appearing on anything similar in the future and would never have considered appearing on any reality TV show that did not have a charitable element. My fiercest critics, alas, are probably those who know little about the programme, who would never watch such a thing, and so never did. (Not that that makes them bad people – neither did I until I was on it!) As my old boss, then Sir John, now Lord Stephens, said to me “Brian, I like a man who takes risks … provided they come off.” Have they?

* Brian Paddick was Liberal Democrat candidate for the London mayoralty in 2008.

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19 Comments

  • Would you say that of the whole Nick Clegg 30 lovers thing?

  • Brian, a good defence and congratulations. No comments indeed!

    That probably shows you have taken another risk in writing, so I will get in and make a comment before those young men who always turn our blog threads into a personal argument, rather than a debate find their way here.

    I’m afraid to say that my television ration does not allow one-and-a-half hours per day. Neither did I know it was so, and am quite amazed.

    It is good for our party that we have some people who are not afraid to be on the edge of conventional.

    One thing that is pleasing me about the young Mr Clegg whom I didn’t help to get elected, is that he seems not afraid to be candid and after a few unfortunate episodes I think he will also show those strong leadership qualities that you obviously have.
    Elizabeth

  • I guess you can please some of the people some of the time…

  • My partner and I were watching it and getting misty-eyed over the fact that three older, openly LGBT people – Brian, Martina Navratilova and George Takei – could all appear on such a programme and get a positive reaction from the audience and fellow cast members. Sometimes it astonishes and delights me how much things have changed, even in the space of the last decade. In the midst of so much to be gloomy about, there really are some causes for hope, and in very unexpected places.

  • ‘An Overtly Homophobic Police Service’

    All I will say Brian is that I am extreemy disapointed in you. I have been in the Met for 9yrs now as an openly gay man and have never exp any kind of homophobic abuse – well none that I have not dealt with, and those instances were minimal and quickly brought to justice. The Police service as an institution is teriffied of anybody that is not hetrosexual and white… But that is wrong! Even as a gay copper myself, if I ever did anything wrong then I would expect to be treated the same as any other police officer. The sad fact is, the police service would run a mile.. unless of course I did something that outragous that a disaplinary action was unavoidable.

    In summary, I support you, but please do not ‘big up’ your cause because you are gay or because you want people to feel you have been hard done by.. because in my opinion you have not. In fact I beleive you have done extreemly well within the police service, and I have no doubt that, that partially has too do with your sexuality.

    The Police Service, including the MPS has a lot to learn, but the lessons to be learnt are not to be affraid of anyone that is not white and straight…

  • Brian joined the met about 20 years before you though. The thread below suggests Brian says that things have changed significantly.

  • David Morton 8th Jan '09 - 5:32am

    I apologise for being unoriginal but it was one show at a time when you held no party position. The show is well established, popular and mainstream. There was a charity element. What was ever the problem /

    I also think there is an element of “New Politics” about this. One of the problems of the mayoral campaign was that you were up against “first name only” brands like Boris and Ken. If you want another go ( and i don’t know if you do) then I’d have thought I’m a Celebrity would have been an excellent move.

    Tell Critics where to shove it.

  • Gaycop I am pleased the pioneering work that your gay predecessors has paid off for you. The police service I joined in 1976 was overtly homophobic. Yes, things have improved but the Gay Police Association recorded its highest ever number of homophobic incidents within the police service in 2006. I am not saying the police service is openly homophobic now.

    On whether I was hard done by or not, please read the linked article regarding Sir Ian Blair.

    I have successfully sued a newspaper who claimed I had been promoted just because I was gay. Let’s not go down that route.

  • Good piece Brian, glad that now you are a politician you are continuing to be yourself.

    I sincerely hope that the party finds a high profile role for you that makes the most of your potential.

  • Brian – I thought you did really well in the jungle, we all thought you should have won. The point is, your a good man and you worked in the force protecting your community & people around you and some homophobic people have no respect whatsoever, even colleagues. Well done!

    P.S me and my family noticed how much weight you lost! You looked so thin, but you did well in the jungle!

  • “some of which can be humiliating (mine, thankfully, were not).”

    “I left with my dignity intact.”

    Brian, you spent the night in bed with 30 rats in a cage with you… that is humiliating and shows no dignity.

    “I apparently did the gay cause no harm either”

    The gay cause? Brian what is this ‘gay cause’. There is no ‘gay cause’ it is in your head and even if there was you did not do anything to help it by sleeping with 30 rats in a jungle in Australia with a bunch of Z-List celebrities.

    Gay cause? My eye… and think I was quite glad when you were announced the pic for the May elections last year :O

  • John T you are entitled to your opinion (thankfully not one shared by the majority). A scenario can be humiliating if you behave in a ridiculous manner in response to the scenario and it can result in you having no dignity if you react in an undignified way. I do not believe, set in context, my behaviour in response to this challenge was either humiliating or lacking in dignity.

    ‘Gay cause’ is my shorthand for ‘helping to demolish negative stereotypes of gay people’. Negative stereotypes of gay people are not ‘in my head’ but in the minds of many bigoted and small-minded people who rush to judgement on the basis of little or no evidence and/or blind prejudice.

    I have lost count of the number of messages of support I have received from gay (and straight people) who have said they consider my ‘performance’ in the jungle to have conveyed a very positive image of gay people. Most people would also not consider Martina Navratalova and George Takei to be Z-list celebrities.

    On a technical point, I did not ‘sleep with 30 rats’. When one tried to get into my sleeping bag I told it in no uncertain terms “I hardly know you and already you want to sleep with me – get out!”

  • How many rats were there? “No more than 30”?

  • Brian, I must admit that when I saw that you were going in to the jungle I did cringe a little. It would have been so easy for the ITV producers to either edit you out altogether, or make you look foolish. But they didn’t, and I’d say that you came out of it with pretty much your reputation intact. It did help that this was probably the best set of contestants the series has had and was a generally interesting couple of weeks.

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