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Opinion

TV stars and footballers are fighting the good fight – but let’s not forget those less visible

It is curious to live in a time of such shifting sands that Ant and Dec are leading the challenge to the sitting government, writes Big Issue editor Paul McNamee.

Don’t point at David Ginola. He does not like that. He REALLY does not like that. Matty Lee, the Olympic diver who won a gold medal as part of a duo with the more famous Tom Daley, is totally unflappable. I don’t know why he isn’t used to sort out pretty much everything in the world, because nothing fazes him.

The music producer Naughty Boy only goes by the name Naughty Boy and has a strong bond with his mother. Frankie Bridge is very likeable. So is Snoochie Shy. And so is Simon Gregson. He plays Steve McDonald in Coronation Street. He is like your solid, self-deprecating mate who’ll always calm things down if it gets a bit testy when you’re all out.

I know this important information about these people because of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! It’s a great show. I like how it is a study in human behaviour, when different personality types are equalised by having to wear the same uniform and uncoupled from their normal, and normalising, surroundings. And I also like watching rotten food and insects being dumped on minor celebs as they perform meaningless tasks. Who doesn’t?

But I particularly like Ant and Dec. I have never tired of their schtick. They’re funny and very watchable. However, I didn’t see that they would become the laser-guided satirists who, between bites of sheep testicles, would bring Boris Johnson’s premiership under serious threat. The Downing Street non-party party story was a story before the great Geordies got involved.

When my teenage son told me he had heard about the ghost party on a random TikTok and how it had then become a major topic in his friends’ chats, it was clear this story was cutting through. But Ant and Dec took it beyond when they honed in on it on their show and made it one of the key political and cultural moments of our time. So much so that Keir Starmer referenced them in Prime Ministers Questions in the Commons.

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It is curious to live in a time of such shifting sands that people like Ant and Dec and current and former Manchester United stars Marcus Rashford and Gary Neville are leading the challenge to the sitting government.

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The fights are also being fought at ground level by less visible forces. In his big, trending interview with The Big Issue Michael Sheen said that seeing the work of small charity groups in Port Talbot, trying their best to make life better for those with very little, had a profound impact on him. It was witnessing the governmental cuts to these vital organisations threatening their existence and endangering lives that propelled him to return to Wales and start funding them.

And these groups, in Port Talbot and beyond, right across Britain are, largely, run by women. Brilliant, selfless women who see the problems in their communities and have decided to do something about them. Throughout lockdown we carried stories about many of these women and their groups. They saved lives. It’s natural to think of them and the sacrifices they went through when details of the Downing Street party/non-party continue to circle. And it’s why there is understandable and non-dissipating fury about what happened there and of the denials that have followed.

Every year in The Big Issue at this time we run the Kids Christmas Cover Competition. Every year it feels harder to pick a winner. But we must. This year’s winner, Gabriela Beard, has painted Santa delivering homes to people who are homeless. In this time of ongoing worry and uncertainty, just look at it. It’ll make you feel better.

Paul McNamee is editor of The Big IssueRead more of his columns here.

paul.mcnamee@bigissue.com

@PauldMcNamee

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine. If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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