Steve Reed OBE, who was re-elected as MP last May when Winston McKenzie stood against him as the UKIP candidate in Croydon North, has led the calls for the former boxer to be sacked from Celebrity Big Brother following the “grotesque” homophobic remarks he made on last night’s launch programme.
As Inside Croydon was first to report and highlight last night, the wannabe politician’s entrance on to the Channel 5 reality TV show was trailed with a videoed interview in which, when prompted on his already well-known and bigoted attitudes to homosexuals, he said, “I guess I just have to be standing against a brick wall all the time.”
This recorded interview was edited and broadcast by the Channel 5 production team, clearly to the horror of some of the other “talent” booked for the their shows, including Craig Revel Horwood, the dancer and Strictly Come Dancing judge who was booked as a guest celebrity for the follow-up show, Big Brother’s Bit On The Side.
Revel Horwood called McKenzie’s remarks, “Pretty grotesque.”
McKenzie is on a studio set, the “house”, with 15 other people of varying celebrity status, including two openly gay men, John Partridge and Christopher Maloney. Revel Horwood suggested that if McKenzie were to make similar remarks again while in the house, matters would get “very explosive” with Partridge, an actor whom he knows well and has worked with.
“I don’t think John will put up with it,” Revel Horwood warned.
Interviewed on This Morning, Rylan Clark, the follow-up show’s host, compared McKenzie’s comments to racist remarks which would not be tolerated. Clark also said, “I can’t wait to speak to Winston. I’ve had a little wall made so when he comes out I’ll say, ‘Winston, I am a homosexual, I don’t know if you know that. There is a wall, if you feel you need to stand up against it’.”
During the day, nearly 250 people have echoed Revel Horwood’s and Clark’s disgust and lodged complaints with TV regulator Ofcom over the incident. In the past, Big Brother‘s producers have acted promptly when contestants, once in the house, have overstepped the mark so brazenly. Last year’s celeb series saw former Coronation Street actor Ken Morley thrown off the show for using racist and sexist language.
On this occasion, though, the show’s producers are culpable, since the offensive remarks were as a result of their own questioning and might have been edited out. As the Torygraph reported, “Channel 5 opted to leave it in, for the sake of drama, presumably, but homophobia and discrimination of any kind could be grounds for removal from the house – and have been in the past. To set up the series on this note left a bitter taste in the mouth of many viewers and avid fans.”
One sign of some back-pedalling going on was seen this morning when, even though the contestants have supposedly handed in their phones and tablets for the duration of the programme, a message appeared on McKenzie’s Twitter feed saying, “My opening comments were ‘Tongue in cheek’ as a tribute to the wonderful tolerant Gay community who support freedom of speech.” So the usual McKenzie bullshit, of course.
And when Channel 5 aired a recording of last night’s show during their Wednesday daytime schedule, the offending remarks were edited out. But the broadcaster declined to comment on the incident today, which is hardly a ringing endorsement of one of their “celebrities”, who is believed to be receiving a £60,000 fee to appear on the programme.
The first “eviction” from the house is being staged earlier than any previous series, on Friday, and it may be that the producers want to hold out for a couple of days and put McKenzie’s popularity, or lack of it, to the public test. One online poll conducted last night had 76 per cent of viewers voting for South Norwood resident McKenzie to be kicked off the show.
And that will be a first, of sorts, since the wannabe politician has never won an election before.
McKenzie, of course, has something of a track record for ignorance and homophobic attitudes. During recent political campaigns when standing for UKIP, he has spoken against same-sex marriage and described adoption of children by same-sex couples as “child abuse”.
McKenzie clearly thought was being clever by using his appearance on Big Brother to try to publicise his latest campaign, this time for his seventh political party, the English Democrats. Oh, how those within that fringe group must now be having second-thoughts about the selection of crass McKenzie as their London Mayor candidate.
Reed, the Labour MP for Croydon North, does not think McKenzie should even be given until Friday before he is “evicted” from the Big Brother house.
Reed told tonight’s ITV London News: “I’m very disappointed that Channel 5 have given him the air time that he craves to make these kind of comments and I hope they’ll take him off air, as soon as possible.”
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