Rishi Sunak has said politics should be “noble” when asked about politicians’ appearances on I’m a Celebrity, dismissing his former cabinet colleague Matt Hancock’s view that politicians can use the series to connect with the public.
Sunak said he had not seen any of Hancock’s appearances on the ITV series so far, adding that he had “barely seen my children or anyone else for that matter over the last couple of weeks”.
But asked if Hancock deserved the forgiveness of the British public for his behaviour during the Covid pandemic, Sunak stopped short of saying that he did. “I think the British public will make up their own mind,” the prime minister told reporters at the G20 summit.
“I was disappointed when he went on the show … we’ve spent however long [on] all these challenges that the country faces – not just me.
“MPs not just from my party, from all parties, are focused on debating and trying to solve [the challenges]. I think that’s what we should be focused on and that’s why I was disappointed he went on the show.”
Sunak also suggested he was uncomfortable with the level of degradation Hancock was putting himself through on the show as an elected politician.
Hancock was voted to become leader of the camp earlier this week after the public voted for him to face his fifth consecutive trial – including climbing through a giant doll’s house full of pigeons, snakes and offal.
“I think politics at its best can and should be actually quite noble,” Sunak said. “I think most people who get into politics, from whatever party, do it because they care about public service.
“They want to make a difference to their communities, they want to make a difference to their country and so when that works well it’s a special thing but you have to earn people’s respect … it is not given just because you are a politician.”
He said politicians could earn that respect through doing the jobs they were elected to do well. “That’s serving your constituents really well, making a difference to them in surgeries, it is how you conduct yourself – everyone is going to do it in a slightly different way.
“I think it’s important that we have our constituents and our country at the forefront of what we do when we go around our day-to-day lives. We are privileged to have these jobs and we should take that privilege seriously and we should give it the responsibility that is owed.”