Matt Hancock isn’t the first politician to appear on a reality TV show. Who has paved the way before him, and how well did they fare?

Nadine Dorries

Despite the controversy surrounding her decision to go on I’m a Celeb in 2012, which included having the whip removed as well as being censured by the parliamentary standards watchdog for failing to declare the £82,000 fee, Dorries didn’t fare too well on the show. The Mid Bedfordshire MP took part in two bushtucker trials in 2012 before becoming the first contestant to be voted out of the jungle.

Nadine Dorries in I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here! in 2012.
Nadine Dorries in I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here! in 2012. Photograph: ITV/Rex Features

Lembit Öpik

Dorries followed in the footsteps of the former Lib Dem politician, who had not fared much better when he appeared on I’m A Celeb two years earlier. He was the second star to be evicted from the jungle. But it didn’t put off the former Montgomeryshire MP, who also appeared on other shows including Bargain Hunt Famous Finds and Come Dine With Me.

George Galloway

In what’s perhaps the most talked-about appearance by a politician on a reality TV show, Galloway appeared on Celebrity Big Brother in 2006. In a now-infamous task, the Respect party leader pretended to be a cat, purred and feigned to lick cream from actor Rula Lenska’s hands. Galloway lasted three weeks in the house before finishing in joint seventh place.

George Galloway imitates a cat on Celebrity Big Brother, 2006.
George Galloway imitates a cat on Celebrity Big Brother, 2006. Photograph: Channel 4/PA

Ed Balls

In contrast to Galloway, Balls’ appearance on Strictly Come Dancing in 2016 was a huge boost for his public profile. The former Labour shadow chancellor became a crowd favourite and, while he only finished in sixth place, his Gangnam style routine with dance partner Katya Jones became an internet sensation.

Ann Widdecombe

The former Home Office minister made it to week 10 of Strictly Come Dancing in 2010, entertaining audiences as she took to the ballroom floor with partner Anton Du Beke. Widdecome has also appeared on Celebrity Fit Club and Celebrity Big Brother.

Ann Widdecombe at the Strictly Come Dancing launch show, 2010.
Ann Widdecombe at the Strictly Come Dancing launch show, 2010. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

Oona King

The former Labour MP appeared on ITV’s skating show Dancing on Ice in 2013, but she was eliminated in the third week after accidentally tripping up her professional dance partner Mark Hanretty and dislocating his shoulder.

Penny Mordaunt

In 2014 the now-leader of the House of Commons appeared on ITV’s reality show Splash!, in which the Olympian Tom Daley taught celebrities how to dive. Mordaunt was soon eliminated after mistiming her back somersault.

Alan Johnson

In 2020, the former home secretary appeared on the inaugural series of The Masked Singer UK, but he was sent home after his rendition of Walk Like An Egyptian by the Bangles – performed as his persona Pharaoh – failed to impress the panel.


Nadia Khomami Arts and culture correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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