Cabinet ministers criticise Celebrity Big Brother

Shilpa Shetty has been the target of bullying
Shilpa Shetty has been the target of bullying

Senior cabinet ministers have waded into the row over allegations of racist bullying on Celebrity Big Brother.

Around 14,500 people have complained to television regulator Ofcom about the treatment of Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty by fellow housemates.

Keith Vaz yesterday tabled an early day motion (EDM) criticising the show, and today, on a visit to India, chancellor Gordon Brown said: "I want Britain to be seen as a country of fairness and tolerance. Anything detracting from this I condemn."

At prime minister's questions, Tony Blair was also asked about the issue. He said "we should oppose racism in all its forms" but admitted he had not seen the programme.

Mr Vaz's EDM calls on the show to take urgent action to "remind housemates that racist behaviour is unacceptable".

The Labour MP for Leicester East said: "We would not tolerate this kind of racism on other types of television programme and we should not do so on a programme that is watched by millions of people."

Asked for his views on The Daily Politics Show, Treasury minister Ed Balls said: "I think people watching this programme will be a little ashamed. I certainly am.

"The fact is that this is an image we are projecting around the world and it is not a good image or a true image of Britain."

He added: "Economic relations go both ways; both with British companies going to India and also Indian companies investing is very important indeed."

A Channel 4 spokeswoman said it took allegations of bullying or racial abuse "extremely seriously", and said housemates in the Big Brother house were monitored at all times to ensure they had the proper support to deal with any conflicts.

Individuals on the show may be reprimanded if necessary, she said, but noted: "The nature of the show often includes incidents where conflicts arise and housemates are encouraged to resolve issues among themselves."

She added: "Shilpa herself has not voiced any concerns of racial slurs or bullying against her."


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