Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced he will be joining the cast of ITV show I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! He has been suspended as a Conservative MP as a result, and has defended his decision to appear on the reality television show, but what are the thoughts of his West Suffolk constituents?
‘He should be fixing problems’
“I’m absolutely outraged,” says Richard Patey, reacting to Mr Hancock swapping the House of Commons for eating bugs – and various other animal parts – in the Australian jungle.
The 42-year-old, who lives in Red Lodge, says: “He’s supposed to be serving as my MP.
“Given the complete mess he and his party have got this country in, he should be in Westminster and his constituency to fix all the problems were are now facing, and not attention-seeking on national TV.”
Mr Patey says he never normally watches the ITV reality show, but is urging his fellow West Suffolk constituents to “vote for Matt for every challenge”.
“I’m going to make it my business to see that he eats kangaroo genitalia every day he’s in the jungle.
“People of West Suffolk, show your displeasure,” he adds.
In Haverhill, at the other end of Mr Hancock’s constituency, Clare Reeve says “we wouldn’t even notice the difference here with him gone”.
“He does nothing for us anyway,” the 46-year-old says.
“But it’s deeply disrespectful for an MP to go off whilst Parliament is sitting during the cost-of-living crisis and the impacts this will have on his constituents.”
Stuart Dillon, also from the town, agrees Mr Hancock has been a “poor MP for this area”, where he held the seat with a majority of 23,194 in the 2019 general election.
“He only got this seat because it is a safe Tory seat,” says the 47-year-old.
“I think it is shocking during a cost-of-living crisis especially that he chooses to do this.
“I’m not fussed about him losing the whip because I’m not a Tory.”
‘Does not deserve to be our MP’
In Newmarket, where people have recently been fighting to save their bus services, some people think it is a “disgrace”.
“I thought it was politics, not celebrities,” says Giselle White.
“I really don’t think the government should be playing celebrity games when they’re supposed to be looking after this country.
“You’ve got all the war in Ukraine going on, we’re helping them out. We’ve got price changes and everything. Every month it’s a case of ‘do I pay my rent or do I pay my electricity and my water?’.
“What is he trying to do? To be a celebrity, get fans, or is he trying to be [part of our] government and actually make us believe in what Britain is supposed to be?”
Lisa Smith, also from the horse-racing town, says: “Honestly, I think him going on to I’m A Celebrity is a disgrace. For a start, he isn’t a celebrity, he is supposedly a politician.
“He does a poor job representing his constituents. The only time he really shows up is if there is some form of media involved.
“Right now there is a crisis in the area with the bus services being axed, and his priority is not to help his constituents but to go on to a TV show. He does not deserve to be our local MP.”
‘I hope he gets the whip back’
The West Suffolk Conservative Association agrees there is a “lot of stuff” going on in the constituency they need an MP for.
Vice president Fiona Unwin says there has been a “range of reactions” among members when they heard the news.
“Some people thought it was hysterically funny that he was going to eat bugs and things in the jungle. Some people were like ‘oh well, what do you expect?’. And some people were really angry – some people were furious,” she says.
Although she thinks a “competitive” Mr Hancock, who previously trained as a jockey and ran the London Marathon, will “revel” in being on the show, she does not understand his choice to take part.
“I think it’s extraordinary, but my opinion is that I’m disappointed, I’m very disappointed,” she says.
“It isn’t the end of the world. I just hope they give him the whip back before too long.”
The MP defended his decision to appear, saying the programme is a “powerful tool” to reach young people.
Writing in the Sun, the former health secretary said politicians must “go where the people are” and not “sit in ivory towers in Westminster”.
A political ally of Mr Hancock’s said in a statement he did not expect to serve in government again, so taking part in the show was “an incredible opportunity for him to engage with the 12m Brits who tune in every single night”.
“Matt has told the whips in Parliament and he will use his time in the jungle to promote his dyslexia campaign.”Matt has an excellent team working with him in West Suffolk, but producers have agreed that he can communicate with them if there’s an urgent constituency matter,” the statement added.
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