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

Matt is still toxic. The first reaction of the comedian Seann Walsh said it all. He saw Matt Hancock and he burst out laughing. As if he’d just come across the last person he’d want to meet. Others weren’t so kind. The Corrie actor Sue Cleaver reckoned he shouldn’t be skiving off when parliament wasn’t in recess. The singer Boy George said that if his mum had died of Covid he would have walked out of the camp. The former rugby player Mike Tindall observed that Matt just talked “bullshit, bullshit, bullshit”. The radio DJ Chris Moyles looked as if he wanted to throw up. The rest didn’t say much. The least hostile response came from the Hollyoaks actor Owen Warner. But then he didn’t appear to know who Matt was. By day two some of the camp had relaxed a little: as if they had made a decision to try to get along with him in the interests of harmony. But several clearly dislike him intensely. Imagine.

Matt is just trying to be human. At least that’s what he keeps telling us. He wants us to see the real Matt. The Matt behind the politician’s mask. The man behind the podium, as he self-importantly put it. The guy who wanted to understand economics, so he went to work in the Bank of England, before going on to become an adviser to George Osborne. The everyday story of an ordinary bloke who just happened to become a cabinet minister. So what he’s doing on I’m a Celeb – other than trousering £400K: it’s astonishing how no one ever mentions they are in it for the dosh – is something of a mystery. The last place any sane person would expect to be real is on a reality show. But Matt is arrogant and delusional enough to think he can beat the system. Either that or he’s never watched the show. I’m a Celeb is one of the most sadistic shows on TV and the only reason Matt has been brought on is to be the hate figure against whom the country can unite. A thought: why would Matt imagine anyone was that interested in his human side? He’s actually rather dull.

No one is in any mood to forgive. Matt might want to move on but the country is not yet ready to. Most people are more interested in the inquiry into the government’s handling of the Covid pandemic. How people with Covid were discharged to care homes. How contracts for PPE were handed out to mates with little or no public scrutiny. How people in government repeatedly broke the lockdown laws they had imposed. And yes, that includes you, Matt. At the beginning of the pandemic, Matt insisted it was a police matter when the epidemiologist Neil Ferguson was caught visiting his girlfriend. When Matt was captured on CCTV groping Gina, he insisted it was just “an act of love”. Two star-crossed lovers. The TV presenter Scarlette Douglas quizzed him on this, but Matt clearly has no regrets.

Matt can’t sing. When Seann first met Matt, he asked him to name his favourite band. You could see the panic in Matt’s eyes. What was the band that would make the public love the “human” Matt? Eventually he stumbled on Ed Sheeran. After all, everyone likes Ed Sheeran, don’t they? Er … To try to prove he did really, really like Sheeran, Matt started signing the words to a song he couldn’t initially name. “Don’t sing, Matt,” he said to himself as he carried on singing. Eventually the song title came to him. Perfect.

Matt will do anything to be loved. It shouldn’t be any surprise that Matt has been selected for the first three trials. It was what he was paid to come on the show for: so we could watch him suffer. Nor should it be much surprise that Matt has been rather good at them so far. Like many politicians, Matt is a narcissist with a limited sense of danger. So he will rush into situations where more normal people would hesitate. Matt doesn’t care if he’s forced down a tunnel where shit is tipped on his head. Nor does he mind going mano a mano with snakes and crocs. Anything for a bit of attention. Matt’s worst nightmare is being totally ignored. The celeb that nobody much cares about.

Matt thinks Rishi is doing a great job. When asked why he thought it was OK to bunk off parliament when he was paid to be an MP, Matt breezily insisted the prime minister was managing just great without him. If by doing great, he meant Rishi was leading the economy into recession, had already had to sack his first cabinet minister, had U-turned on going to Cop27 and was useless at PMQs, then yes, Rishi had made the perfect start. Sadly Matt is so delusional, he hasn’t yet realised that most people can’t sack off their day job – even if everything was going just fine – if they get a better offer.

Matt isn’t so keen on telling the world about his dyslexia campaign after all. Before he went into the jungle, Matt was adamant that his motivation was to highlight causes that were dear to him. Maybe he’s saving that for later in the show. Because up until now he hasn’t mentioned dyslexia once. Nor has he talked about his favourite hospice to which he will be donating £10 of his fee.

Matt doesn’t know his career is over. Matt imagines he will be able to slip back to Westminster, his reputation enhanced, and continue as he was before. He doesn’t know that he’s washed up. That no one will ever take him seriously again. That the best he can hope for is another payday on another reality show. His adviser knows the game is up, though. He has been busy sending reporters unsolicited WhatsApp messages highlighting any tweets that have been vaguely supportive of Matt. As if the floodgates are about to open and we’re all going to fall in love with him and realise he’s one of the good guys after all.

We’ve already had enough Matt. From the fake laugh to the endlessly awkward conversations with the other celebs, Matt is sucking the life out of the show. I’m a Celeb is meant to be fun, but Matt has such an uncomfortable aura he is making the experience of watching him a trial in itself. There is no more fun to be had in Matt. Just sending him off for more and more trials has become boring. As well as making us viewers complicit in his narrative. So far the story of the show has been all about Matt. It’s time to relegate him to a bit part. Better still, to vote him off the show. Matt’s job on I’m a Celeb is done.

• This article was amended on 11 November 2022 to correctly refer to Scarlette Douglas, rather than Scarlett Moffatt as an earlier version said due to an error introduced during editing.

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