Holly Willoughby to replace Ant McPartlin on I'm a Celebrity

‘Hols and Dec’ will head for the Australian jungle this autumn, while regular co-host takes time off to treat addiction

Holly Willoughby will replace Ant McPartlin as the co-presenter on ITV’s I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! alongside Declan Donnelly, as MacPartlin takes time off to deal with an addiction to prescription drugs.

Willoughby – who co-hosts This Morning, is one of ITV’s biggest names and has known McPartlin since their days hosting children’s TV – said the move will not be permanent. She said: “I love Ant and want to send him my best wishes and support for a continued recovery. These are big shoes, not to fill, but just to keep warm for a little bit. I couldn’t be more excited to have been asked to stand alongside Dec for the next jungle adventure.”

Willoughby’s absence from the This Morning sofa will force ITV to find a stand-in host to accompany Phillip Schofield on the daytime TV show.

ITV’s director of programmes, Kevin Lygo, announced that McPartlin would be replaced while speaking last week at the Edinburgh TV festival, and joked that Piers Morgan or Jeremy Corbyn could step in. “He’s not going to go to the jungle; Dec is, and we will find someone to stand next to Dec,” Lygo said.

McPartlin and Donnelly have been stalwarts of ITV’s light entertainment coverage for nearly two decades, graduating from a career in children’s TV. But their careers have stalled recently as McPartlin struggled with prescription drug addiction after the breakdown of his marriage, and he announced he would be taking a break from presenting until 2019 after he convicted in April for drink-driving after crashing his car.

Jungle buddies … Ant McPartlin, left, and Declan Donnelly.
Jungle buddies … Ant McPartlin, left, and Declan Donnelly. Photograph: ITV Plc

Speaking about McPartlin in Edinburgh, Lygo added: “The good news is that he’s doing really well. He’s doing everything he should be doing to get better. We collectively all thought, let’s give him a good amount of time off. This is a slow procedure, that’s what we’ve decided to do.”

Willoughby was criticised earlier this year for appearing to skim over McPartlin’s conviction for drink driving while discussing it on This Morning. While discussing the incident with the Guardian, she said: “It’s not something anybody should be talking about. Out of respect for him, I love him to bits, it’s not something that I find very easy to talk about. Because it’s a friend. His is not my story to tell. He’s just got to look after himself, that’s all.”

Declan Donnelly said the show will be “a different kind of series” without McPartlin but said he’s committed to making it “no less fun and eventful for our loyal viewers”.

I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! does not yet have a scheduled premiere date, but will return in the autumn.


Lanre Bakare

The GuardianTramp

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