Jungle deliverance? Matt Hancock seeks his celebrity salvation

Covid-era health secretary hopes to use I’m a Celebrity … appearance to ‘deliver messages to the masses’ – who can now message back

Will he have to eat a live spider? Is video footage of his first jungle shower going to be played on repeat, his damp trunks later sold for charity? Will he find love (again)?

After a seemingly interminable wait Matt Hancock will on Wednesday evening make his first appearance in the I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! jungle.

Professional cheeky chappies Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly will welcome the former health secretary, 44, to the jungle along with comedian Seann Walsh. It comes after Love Island star Olivia Attwood withdrew from the show on Monday on medical grounds.

Now the moment for his big debut has arrived, how will Hancock cope? He is a man, according to Westminster sources, who likes to project a self-deprecating image. As culture secretary he had the pick of the government art collection and chose a painting of a cockerel – a knowing nod to the mockery his name often provoked.

But behind the scenes he is said to be famously thin-skinned. With pop icon Boy George already accusing Loose Women’s Charlene White of being bossy and “controlling”, how will Hancock react if George’s sharp tongue veers in a fresh direction?

Criticism will, at least, not be unfamiliar to the former minister, who has faced disparaging remarks from his constituents (one of whom simply declared “the man is an idiot”), the prime minister, former contestants, comedians, the families of those who lost loved ones during the pandemic, Miriam Margolyes, fellow MPs, countless political commentators and a significant majority of people with a social media account.

Hancock’s decision to star in the show has also seen him lose the Tory whip. But while acknowledging that “some will think I’ve lost my marbles”, he has insisted he wanted to do the show to showcase his “human side” and to use reality TV as a platform to “deliver important messages to the masses”.

Alongside other celebrities taking part in this year’s series – Culture Club star Boy George, TV presenter Scarlette Douglas, Lioness Jill Scott, Coronation Street actor Sue Cleaver, Hollyoaks actor Owen Warner, rugby star Mike Tindall, comedian Babatunde Aleshe and broadcaster Charlene White – Hancock will have to live in extreme conditions.

He will have to take part in “bushtucker trials” – which in previous years has seen former glamour model Katie Price devouring a kangaroo anus, while actor Jorgie Porter has chewed on a crocodile penis – to get additional food for the group, and to avoid being voted out by viewers during their stay.

If Hancock makes it to the final episode he stands a chance of winning. Some have suggested this is unlikely. The reigning I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! champion, actor Danny Miller, has suggested Hancock was likely to be used like a “toy” by the public, who would want to mete out punishments as retribution for his handling of the Covid pandemic in the UK, before he is voted off.

But ex-MP and former I’m a Celebrity … contestant Lembit Öpik opined that, after the kissing scandal that led to his resignation as health secretary, Hancock had nothing to lose and could be “set for life” financially after his appearance.

The former Lib Dem MP – who considers Hancock a personal friend – added: “He starts from such a low base in the public eye that the only way is up.”


Alexandra Topping

The GuardianTramp

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