‘Some may think I’ve lost my marbles’: Matt Hancock defends decision to appear on I’m a Celebrity

Former health secretary says politicians ‘must wake up and embrace popular culture’

Matt Hancock has said his decision to appear on I’m a Celebrity was motivated by a desire to showcase his “human side” and to use reality TV as a platform to “deliver important messages to the masses”.

Writing in the Sun in defence of his decision, which resulted in him losing the Conservative whip on Tuesday, the former health secretary said that “although some may think I’ve lost my marbles”, he believed politicians “must wake up and embrace popular culture”.

He wrote: “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.”

Hancock said he had thought “long and hard” about the decision, and that he had already turned down the producers twice over the summer, but had “a change of heart” when he was approached for a third time last week.

He said his confidence that the new prime minister, Rishi Sunak, was leading a stable government had further persuaded him it was an appropriate moment for the reality TV appearance.

On Tuesday night, the Mirror reported that Hancock had landed in Brisbane to begin filming the show, which will air its first episode on 6 November.

Hancock’s trip to Australia has been described as a “serious” breach by the chief whip and will mean he is unable to vote in parliament while still able to claim his £84,144 salary.

In his piece for the Sun, he said he did not expect to serve in government again, but that he could “support Rishi and the government in different ways”. He added that he had spoken to the whips “in the same way any MP would when going on a foreign visit, which happens all the time”.

He said he had agreed with the producers that he would be able to continue to speak to his constituents from the jungle.

Hancock said he planned to use his reality TV appearance to promote the campaigning work on dyslexia that has been his focus as a backbench MP since resigning as health secretary after he broke Covid rules by having an affair with an aide, which he said “blew up every part of my life”.

He wants the public to understand the need for earlier identification and better support for dyslexia, as a result of his own struggle to obtain a diagnosis, and hopes to increase public support for his dyslexia screening and teacher training bill, which will receive its second reading in parliament a few days after I’m a Celebrity …  finishes.

He said: “I want to use this incredible platform to raise awareness, so no child leaves primary school not knowing if they have dyslexia.”

He said he would use the proceeds from his appearance to make a donation to St Nicholas Hospice in Suffolk and causes supporting dyslexia, and confirmed that he would declare the amount he received to parliament.

Condemning “patronising” attitudes among MPs to popular culture, he wrote: “While some will say reality TV should be beneath a politician, I think we’ve got to go to where the people gather.”

Mark Harper, the transport secretary and a former chief whip, suggested Hancock was not serving his constituents well by going on Im a Celebrity … while parliament was sitting.

“As a former chief whip, I very much support the decision the chief whip has taken,” he told Sky News. “It’s a member of parliament’s first responsibility when parliament is sitting to serve their constituents.

“The chief whip has made the position clear, which is that he has made a decision that going on I’m a Celebrity is not compatible with doing your job properly as a member of parliament, which is why the whip’s been taken away and as a former chief whip I completely support those decisions taken by my successor.”


Rachel Hall

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Career highlights of I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! star Matt Hancock
From being the first disgraced pandemic-era health secretary, to Rishi Sunak snubbing his handshake, we pick our top 10 moments

Esther Addley

02, Nov, 2022 @6:10 PM

Article image
What we’ve learned about Matt Hancock on I’m a Celebrity
MP wants to show us his human side but his appearance so far has sucked the joy out of the show

John Crace

11, Nov, 2022 @11:35 AM

Article image
‘The man is an idiot’: Constituents respond to Matt Hancock’s I’m a Celebrity decision
Locals unimpressed by their West Suffolk constituency being left without parliamentary representation when the MP appears on ITV show

Caroline Davies

05, Nov, 2022 @8:00 AM

Article image
I’m a Celeb gave Matt Hancock exposure other MPs can only dream of
Making the final was triumph for the former health secretary who was predicted to be first out of the jungle

Jim Waterson Media editor

28, Nov, 2022 @2:05 PM

Article image
Matt Hancock says he did not ‘primarily’ go on I’m a Celebrity for the money
Ex-health secretary defends appearance on TV show and denies he broke law by embracing aide during lockdown

Jessica Elgot Deputy political editor

31, Jan, 2023 @9:29 AM

Article image
Matt Hancock could be ‘set for life’ after I’m a Celebrity, says ex-MP
Former health secretary could have his ‘Peter Andre moment’, jungle veteran Lembit Öpik says

Rachel Hall

04, Nov, 2022 @2:34 PM

Article image
I’m a Celebrity: MPs and peers voting for Hancock to do ‘grim’ tasks, says minister
Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland secretary, claims ‘quite a lot’ of politicians downloading TV show app

Aubrey Allegretti Political correspondent

10, Nov, 2022 @10:41 AM

Article image
Matt Hancock through to final on I’m A Celebrity
Former health secretary could be crowned king of the jungle as he reaches last three along with Owen Warner and Jill Scott

Nadeem Badshah

26, Nov, 2022 @10:20 PM

Article image
Matt Hancock asks for ‘a bit of forgiveness’ for breaking Covid rules
MP admits he made a ‘big mistake’ by breaching social distancing rules while health secretary

Nadeem Badshah

11, Nov, 2022 @11:10 PM

Article image
Love Island and Matt Hancock top list of 2022 Ofcom complaints
Many objected to I’m a Celebrity appearance but regulator found neither reality TV show breached broadcasting code

Jim Waterson Media editor

21, Dec, 2022 @1:35 PM