The curtain is finally coming down on Britain's longest running unreality
show. Now in its 13th year, it has suffered a catastrophic collapse in
ratings as viewers have become bored and deserted in droves.
Once hailed as an exciting social experiment, whose sole purpose was
'education, education, education', the series has descended into little more
than a repellent freak show.
New Labour has demeaned its contestants and audience alike, coarsened our
culture, debased living standards, promoted a climate of bullying and
exhibitionism and lowered Britain's standing around the world. It has become
a byword for corruption and incompetence, obsessed with sex, greed and
Back in 1997, more than 13million people were glued to the programme,
which was hailed for its eclectic, ground-breaking cast.
Housemates included an effete public schoolboy, a former ship's steward,
a dour son of the manse, a blind man and his dog, a gay public relations man
and his exotic Brazilian boyfriend, and a scary, former convent schoolgirl
who quickly became known as the Wicked Witch.
New Labour was the first series to broadcast round the clock, seven days
a week, 365 days a year. Unlike its close rival, Big Brother, it wasn't just
the housemates being filmed.
More than four million CCTV cameras were erected all over Britain so that
every move of the audience could be captured, too, and used in evidence
against people putting out their dustbins on the wrong day.
From the start, the show was mired in controversy, after one of the
housemates, Cookie, was caught having sex with another contestant, a
flame-haired civil servant called Gaynor.
Ally, the house bully, a recovering alcoholic and pornographic novelist,
with a history of mental illness, forced Cookie to leave his wife or face
Ally was eventually evicted himself after his bullying got completely out
of hand and drove one contestant, a mild-mannered doctor called Kelly, to
New Labour: The public schoolboy Tony Blair was
evicted to make way for the Scottish sociopath Gordon Brown, who tried
to become the main character
Kelly was found under a tree in the New Labour garden with his wrists
slashed. To this day, conspiracy theorists continue to maintain that he was
murdered to boost ratings.
Blair, the pretty public schoolboy, survived an early scare after
accepting a £1million bribe from a motor racing tycoon to wear a T- shirt
Viewers were seduced by his easy charm and insistence that he was a
straight kinda guy.
His emotional reaction when the popular royal housemate, Diana, was
killed in a car crash in only the third episode made TV history and proved
to be the defining moment of series one.
New Labour's resident village idiot, Two Jags, was captured on film
punching a member of the audience during the warm-up to the second series.
He was the clown you loved to hate, always raiding the fridge while the
other housemates were asleep.
Ratings went through the roof when another contestant, Tracey, was caught
on camera performing a sex act on Two Jags in the diary room. His wife
Pauline went through the roof, too.
But viewers began to tire of his antics, which included dressing up as a
cowboy and playing croquet in the garden while railing against the 'snobs'
who were out to get him.
Two Jags: The village idiot, John Prescott, was
caught on camera in a compromising situation with fellow housemate
Then there was Blunkett, the first blind character, who formed a
passionate attachment to the only American housemate, Kimberley, drafted in
on the strength of her performance as Snow White at Disneyland.
Viewers were captivated by Blunkett unravelling as he launched a demented
paternity suit to prove that he was the father of Kimberley's baby.
When he was finally evicted, Blunkett cracked up completely. His sobbing,
self-pitying departure was the highlight of the series two finale.
Today, the programme is a shadow of its former self. Only two of the
original cast remain: dour, Scottish sociopath Gordon and gay PR man Mandy,
the self- styled Prince of Darkness.
For most of the show's 12-year run, Gordon was biting his nails and
banging his head against the wall. Whenever there was a scandal in the New
Labour house, he hid behind the sofa, away from the cameras.
After Blair was evicted in 2007 and went on to become a global star,
earning millions of pounds a year, Gordon attempted to become the main
character, but ratings continued to slump and he soon realised there was
nowhere to hide.
He resorted to a bizarre act of self-abuse on YouTube, in the belief that
the audience had migrated to the internet, but it was too late.
Other housemates were drafted in, notably Jackboot Jacqui, a
disciplinarian schoolteacher from the Midlands who marked her arrival with
an ostentatious flash of cleavage. For a while, the tabloids were fixated
upon her breasts and her enthusiasm for punishment.
Original cast: David Blunkett formed an
attachment with American housemate Kimberley while Peter Mandelson is
the self-styled Prince of Darkness
But she was evicted when it was revealed that while she was living
rent-free in the New Labour house, she was claiming overnight expenses for
sleeping in her sister's spare bedroom and her husband was watching
pornography and charging it to the programme's budget.
The real survivor is Mandy, who has been evicted from the show twice -
once for taking out a huge mortgage on the New Labour house without telling
the producers and, secondly, for selling VIP passes to the green room to
some Indian billionaires.
Last year, he made a sensational third comeback as the producers launched
a last-gasp effort to breathe life into a tired old format.
But despite being given his own celebrity spin-off series, set on a
luxury yacht off Corfu, even Mandy couldn't win back the audience.
As New Labour has resorted to increasingly desperate and cynical stunts,
viewers have stopped watching, the sponsors have dried up and the show has
run £1.3trillion over budget.
The final episode is due to be broadcast next May. We will all be glad to
see the back of it.