Across the UK on 1 November 2022, jaws were dropped and mugs of tea spilt as notifications pinged our phones—informing us that none other than former Health Secretary Matt Hancock was strapping on a pair of combat boots and heading into the Australian outback for the 20th season of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!
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Out of both sheer shock and embarrassment, the British public watched horrified as the MP boasted to news publications that he was geared up and ready for the challenge ahead. Sharing his personal thoughts on the matter, Hancock wrote in The Sun: “Some may think I’ve lost my marbles or had one too many drinks, swapping the comfortable surroundings of Westminster and West Suffolk for the extreme conditions of the Australian outback.”
“While there will undoubtedly be those who think I shouldn’t go, I think it’s a great opportunity to talk directly to people who aren’t always interested in politics, even if they care very much about how our country’s run. It’s our job as politicians to go to where the people are—not to sit in ivory towers in Westminster,” the former cabinet member continued.
In order to try and break down the discourse surrounding this highly contentious issue, we’ve identified the key conversations circulating in the media so far. So, while we all await the satisfying moment when Hancock is forced to digest a kangaroo testicle on national television, let’s revisit some of the hard facts.
So, when the news first broke of Hancock’s reality TV escapades, the BBC reported that he had been suspended as a Conservative MP. Perhaps the Tory party leaders thought having one of their own competing in Bushtucker trials would reflect badly on them…? Of course, numerous COVID-19 violations—as serving Health Secretary during the pandemic—didn’t quite do the trick.
However, this suspension does not mean that he is no longer a registered Member of Parliament—with, might I add, an MP’s wage. So, despite having jetted off to Australia, Hancock is still the West Sussex representative and therefore is still receiving his £84,144 salary, as confirmed by the BBC.
Now, Hancock has insisted that his appearance on the reality TV show is strictly for dyslexia awareness promotional purposes, rather than a baseless attempt at fame. However, if the former secretary is officially done with political service, as he’s stated multiple times, why is he still reaping the financial benefits?
There’s also the question of his payment for actually appearing on the show. Rumoured to be approximately £400,000, a spokesman of Hancock has claimed that the MP had pledged to donate an unknown sum of this money to St Nicholas Hospice in Suffolk and causes supporting dyslexia, as reported by The Independent.
As we know, politicians are often as slippery as the snakes featured on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, so we’ll have to wait and see how this pledge plays out.
Understandably, members of the public were overwhelmingly critical of this decision. In particular, those who had lost friends of family members due to the COVID-19 pandemic were incredibly insulted by the former Health Secretary’s decision.
Speaking to The Guardian, Dr Cathy Gardner—whose father died in a care home in 2020 due to COVID—said, “To see him just paraded on television, like he’s some kind of fun figure, so he can make some money and make himself into some kind of fake celebrity” was “insulting” and “completely sick.”
The COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice organisation also commented on the matter, stating: “Matt Hancock isn’t a ‘celebrity’, he’s the former health secretary who oversaw the UK having one of the highest death tolls in the world from COVID-19 whilst breaking his own lockdown rules.”
Netizens also had some choice words for Hancock. On Twitter, for example, one user wrote, “The British public is getting ready to torture Matt Hancock,” while another chimed in “We pledge as a nation to vote for Matt Hancock for every trial right?”
And now, it appears that the public might finally be able to get some satisfaction from this absurd appearance. Last night, Tuesday 8 November, the show teased Hancock’s debut—with the MP promising viewers to expect “warts and all.”
If any of his constituents were worried about having their voices in Parliament squashed due to a lack of representation, fear not—Hancock himself has provided a clear solution, stating in his declaration in The Sun: “My excellent team in West Suffolk will continue to oversee matters relating to the constituency, like they already do when I’m in Westminster. As soon as my time in camp is up, I will return to Suffolk to hold a surgery where I will catch up with my constituents and discuss matters of concern.”
Considering his clear statements about having zero interest in returning to public office, we can’t imagine that discussion will go particularly smoothly. I’m already awaiting next year’s Love Island dreaded announcement: “A new bombshell enters the villa.” I imagine Hancock already has his swimming trunks packed.
In other news, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has become the first world leader to appear on a franchise of RuPaul’s Drag Race. According to CTV News, Trudeau will make a cameo in the upcoming spin-off Canada’s Drag Race: Canada vs. the World during a segment where contestants will receive inspiring words from the leader before they hit the runway. Now, that’s how you blend politics and reality TV.
Oh, and if you haven’t already consumed your daily intake of cringe—here’s Hancock’s official introductory video to I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!