‘The man is guaranteed to be punished’ – Matt Hancock on I’m a Celebrity will be legendary TV

The sadsack minister who screwed up Britain’s pandemic response has decided to serve his penance on television. This won’t just be unmissable viewing – it’ll restore our faith in humanity

I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here! has been a bit long in the tooth for years now. The challenges are getting stale, and the contestants grow more obscure with every passing year. If it wasn’t for Ant and Dec, who still at least manage to go viral once or twice per series, you’d give up watching completely. Maybe you already have.

But today brings the sort of news that doesn’t just restore I’m A Celebrity to the premier league of reality shows, but also restores your faith in humanity itself. This is news that makes you stand a little taller, that makes your heart beat a bit louder. That’s right: Matt Hancock has signed up for I’m a Celebrity.

Read that again. Isn’t that fantastic? Matt Hancock – the man who screwed up Britain’s pandemic response then got caught breaking his own social distancing rules while simultaneously cheating on his wife – has decided to serve his penance on ITV. Better yet, an ITV show where viewers essentially get to attack famous people out of spite.

This was already shaping up to be a barnstormer of a year for I’m a Celebrity, with household names including Chris Moyles and Boy George signing up, but the Hancock news has made it legendary. The man is automatically guaranteed to take part in every single bushtucker trial going. Doesn’t matter what it is – maybe he’ll get covered in maggots, or be forced to eat a kangaroo’s bumhole, or get kicked into a rocky ravine – this is a chance for the British public to finally get its revenge on a figure who came to personify every government mishap during Covid.

The other campmates must be absolutely pinching themselves. Hancock will enter the camp late, but he won’t be alone. The other person arriving with him will be Seann Walsh, a man primarily famous for cheating on his girlfriend with his Strictly Come Dancing partner. Walsh is hated by the public. Had he accompanied anyone else into the camp (literally anyone – Piers Morgan, James Corden, Mussolini’s ghost), he would have found himself subjected to more bushtucker trials than anyone in the history of the show. That’s how much people dislike Walsh. But he’s going in with Matt Hancock, which means he gets a nice free holiday where everyone ignores him for a few weeks. Walsh is going to come out of the jungle spotless and relaxed. The hardest thing he’ll face is the sight of Hancock, crying and covered in ostrich turds, pulling handfuls of spiders from his underwear for the 16th consecutive day.

Trawl through the recent footage of Hancock and you can pretty much freeze-frame the exact moment he decided to take part on I’m a Celebrity. Rishi Sunak was glad-handing colleagues in Downing Street, thrilled that he had finally been chosen to lead the country. Hancock was in the crowd, too, smiling and expectant as Sunak drew ever closer. But Sunak snubbed Hancock, failing to shake his hand or even look him in the eye. Hancock’s dejection was evident for all to see. His face fell. His shoulders dropped. The anguish danced through his entire body. Rewatch that video and pause it just after the snub. Look in Hancock’s eyes. That is the look of a man with nothing left to lose. Sure, he’ll lower himself and appear on ITV. Sure, he’ll let the public bully him. Sure, he’ll probably find his pubic area riddled with ticks and leeches. But so what? He can’t feel any more.

True, Hancock might have been advised that he’s simply following in the footsteps of his colleagues. Nadine Dorries appeared on I’m a Celebrity in 2012, and Penny Mordaunt once appeared on the celebrity diving show Splash. But in truth, nobody really knew them back then. They were political minnows looking to elbow their way into the spotlight.

That’s not Hancock, though. He enters the jungle a known quantity. Everyone in the country is fully aware of him, of his damp-mouthed, sadsack persona, and of all the things he has done. People died on his watch, and now they finally have a chance to get their own back. Will forcing him to crawl through a tunnel filled with rats, crying and gagging and begging for lenience, bring their loved ones back? No, but it’s the next best thing. This show is going to be unmissable.


Stuart Heritage

The GuardianTramp

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