Faithspace: Rev Richard Barrett
W E'RE having an overdose of TV talent shows at present – Strictly Come Dancing, The Apprentice, X Factor and I'm a Celebrity – Get Me Out Of Here.
I enjoy them. I got mad when Wagner kept getting through on X Factor and annoyed with Gillian's antics on I'm a Celebrity. And as for Stuart the buffoon on The Apprentice, how has he escaped being fired for so long?
Of course we should not take them too seriously. They are not serious competitions. People are not really selected for their talent. Producers look for a mix of personalities who will make a watchable programme.
Why else would they choose such a ghastly bunch of male contestants with grossly inflated egos in The Apprentice? Stella or Liz is bound to win. Why would they opt for Wagner at the last minute in the X Factor, if not to be the joker? Who would select Gillian with all her phobias for the trials of the jungle, unless to exploit them, in I'm a Celebrity?
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So the producers are manipulating us, providing characters for us to laugh at, get angry with, admire and pity.
And the public is willing to go along with it in a way. It sees the game being played and uses its voting power in response.
People probably kept Wagner in so long to spite Simon Cowell, who wields so much power in the music industry, and to make the point that the public should not be taken for granted. The repeated votes to make Gillian do the trials seemed cruel at first, until it became clear that she was trying to manipulate the public herself and she was evicted.
Lord Sugar does the firing in The Apprentice, but the after-show gives the audience a voice and it often puts right a wrong decision about who should go.
Anne Widdecombe has survived in Strictly because the public recognise a sport and that it is not strictly a dancing competition but a bit of fun. She is a popular politician, not necessarily for her views, but for her integrity. That is something that the public is looking for.
We want our votes to count. When we vote for an MP we expect them to be accountable. That is why there is such an outcry about the Lib Dems breaking their pledge on student tuition fees.
The proposed alternative vote system for elections would make MPs more accountable by requiring them to win at least 50 per cent of the vote.
There is a growing movement in the churches to find ways of holding MPs accountable with regular constituency meetings on a range of issues.
Whether it is a TV show or an election, our votes should never be taken for granted. For Christians, power should be exercised responsibly, the individual's voice heard and democracy defended.