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Is Buerk being a berk by doing I'm a Celeb?

PRIME CUT: Confessions of a Copper C4 (10pm) - grim documentary

THE immediate reaction when it was revealed that Michael Buerk would be slumming it in the jungle on this year's I'm a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here! was, "What the f*** is the man thinking?"

He's thinking about glass, apparently. Lots of glass. The 68-year-old BBC News veteran says he plans to spend his fee for appearing in the series on double-glazing.

According to which figure you believe, Buerk is pocketing either €150,000 or €190,000 for his spell Down Under, making him the highest-paid of this year's crop of jungle-dwellers. That'll insulate a fair few windows, to be sure. Mind you, the glass could also come at the price of something else: Buerk's class.

This, let's not forget, is the Michael Buerk whose heart-rending reports on the Ethiopian famine spurred Bob Geldof into organising Band Aid and Live Aid, which galvanised the conscience of the world back when we were idealistic enough to think such things could make a lasting difference.


It's the Michael Buerk whose uncompromising dispatches from apartheid-era South Africa got him kicked out of the country, and who nearly lost his life in the line of journalistic duty. On the other hand, it's also the Michael Buerk whose personal opinions have regularly caused uproar.

Criticising the number of women in senior positions in the BBC, he said the shift in the female-male balance of power had gone too far, and that modern men were now regarded as "little more than sperm donors".

He branded contemporary newsreaders as "autocue-reading lamebrains" and called Strictly Come Dancing's Tess Daly "a pneumatic birdbrain".

He said of female broadcasters who brought unfair dismissal claims over alleged age discrimination: "If you got the job in the first place mainly because you look nice, I can't see why you should keep it when you don't."

Perhaps it's this Michael Buerk, the prickly, grumpy, self-confessed intellectual snob who claims he's barely seen I'm a Celebrity, only went on MasterChef because he thought it was about learning to cook and thinks reality shows are rubbish, that ITV is paying for, in the hope he'll cause ructions in a camp full of misfits, has-beens and C-list nobodies that includes ex-footballer Jimmy Bullard, former Playboy bunny and Hugh Hefner squeeze Kendra Wilkinson, our own Nadia Forde and the now-obligatory one from The Only Way is Essex, Gemma Collins.

The producers are no doubt hoping that Buerk, who presents BBC Radio 4's The Moral Maze, will eventually erupt with one of the others. It's probably a safe bet in a series where the most notable thing that happened last year was ex-TOWIE meathead Joey Essex admitting he couldn't read the clock.

To be honest, I'm a Celebrity could do with that kind of adrenalin shot. The glory days of Gillian McKeith's fake fainting fits, John Lydon going walkabout and calling voters "f***ing c***s" live on air, and the unlikely bromance between Star Trek favourite George Takei and Joe Swash, now a member of the after-show team, are far behind it. In its 14th year, it's grown stale and predictable.

So far Buerk has been a calm presence, taking twerking lessons from Kendra Wilkinson and engaging in an awkward fist bump with Tinchy Stryder.

Still, he's yet to discuss the merits of meritocracy with Gemma Collins, who's already recast the story of the tortoise and the hare as "the turtle and the slug", so we have to be a little patient.