Matt Hancock has had the Conservative whip suspended because he will appear on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!. Matt Hancock, the man who oversaw one of the worst Covid responses in the world while he was the UK’s health secretary, is going on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!. Matt Hancock, horndog star of one of the most dispiriting pieces of CCTV footage ever seared into the minds of the British public, is going on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!.
There are sentences that refuse to sink in. Yes, we have a long and colourful history of politicians making clowns of themselves on reality television. George Galloway’s infamous turn as a cat on Celebrity Big Brother. Michael Fabricant on First Dates. Ed Balls on Strictly Come Dancing. And even more memorably: Ann Widdecombe on Strictly Come Dancing. Hancock won’t even be the first Tory MP on I’m a Celebrity. Edwina Currie did it, as well as Nadine Dorries in 2012, who managed to get an ostrich’s anus down her gullet before being the first camp-mate to be evicted from the jungle.
And yet this feels like another level of abjection. I’m a Celebrity is a popularity contest voted for by the public – and if you’re deemed unpopular, the punishments involve gigantic Australian centipedes marching up your nose and eating lukewarm offcuts of various exotic genitals. It makes perfect sense from ITV’s perspective. The disgraced former health minister chowing down on a wallaby’s balls? Instant TV ratings gold. But what kind of idiot would voluntarily sign up to give the public – the same public who watched footage of him making out with a colleague in the middle of a pandemic he failed to protect it from – this kind of power over them?
It’s the decision of a man who has somehow managed to miss the fact he is one of the biggest jokes in the United Kingdom. Yes, he was mocked for his fumbling office affair, but there was so much more to laugh at: his strange, fake crying on Good Morning Britain after seeing the first person in the UK to receive a Covid vaccine; footage of him standing creepily close to a colleague in a viral video; his Diary of a CEO podcast appearance in which he drank Huel and came in costume as “Dad who’s got a cool new girlfriend and is actually doing very well after the divorce thank you”, in a black polo neck, blue jeans and pair of trainers. A man so ridiculous that the Daily Star was able to run not one but a whole series of front pages of Hancock in a curly green wig and red nose.
This cannot seriously be an attempt to rebuild his reputation. And yet a close political ally of Hancock’s defending his decision said that “politicians like Matt must go to where the people are”, which is an extraordinary justification for deciding to go and live in isolation in the Australian outback with Chris Moyles, Boy George and one of the Loose Women.
At the risk of sounding a hundred years old, is it so much to ask that our politicians conduct themselves with even a shred of dignity? I do not want to see Matt Hancock’s sad, wet eyes glaze over with regret as he washes himself in the jungle shower every morning. I do not want to see Matt Hancock eat a kangaroo’s penis. I do not want to see Matt Hancock in a pair of those desperately unfashionable shorts, contorting his face as spiders crawl into his every orifice.
And yet, I will inevitably see these scenes. Another atrocity to add to the list of things never to forgive Matt Hancock for.