The former cabinet minister Matt Hancock has had the Tory whip suspended after it emerged he was entering the jungle for I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!
The politician will be the 12th contestant to enter the show, which features famous faces performing in gruelling tasks such as being smothered in insects or eating a kangaroo’s penis.
But the former health secretary faced a backlash from Tory whips and his constituency party over his decision to take part and will now sit as an independent MP. The show overlaps with time when the Commons is sitting.
The Conservative chief whip Simon Hart said: “Following a conversation with Matt Hancock, I have considered the situation and believe this is a matter serious enough to warrant suspension of the whip with immediate effect.”
Hancock was also criticised by the deputy chair of the West Suffolk Conservative Association, Andy Drummond, whosaid: “I’m looking forward to him eating a kangaroo’s penis. You can quote me that.”
Earlier this week, Hancock pulled out of the running to chair the Treasury select committee and announced a new book, Pandemic Diaries, on his experiences as health secretary during the Covid crisis.
Hancock has filmed another reality TV show this year, the Guardian understands. He is to compete in the next series of Channel 4’s Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins.
Hancock resigned as health secretary last year after CCTV footage was leaked showing him kissing his closest aide, Gina Coladangelo, in his ministerial office, in breach of his own Covid rules on distancing.
One source close to Hancock said the show’s producers had agreed that his constituents could communicate with him on urgent matters while he is in the jungle.
They said Hancock did not expect to serve in the cabinet again. “I’m A Celeb is the most watched show on TV. Matt doesn’t expect to serve in government again, so it’s an incredible opportunity for him to engage with the 12 million Brits who tune in every single night,” they said.
The source said there were “many ways to do the job of being an MP … Whether he’s in camp for one day or three weeks, there are very few places people will be able to see a politician as they really are.”
Hancock reportedly turned down an offer to appear on the show initially but reconsidered after the demise of Liz Truss’s premiership, with the government restored to a semblance of stability. Hancock backed Rishi Sunak in the leadership contest but was not asked to return to the cabinet.
“When he was first approached to take part, while he was flattered and naturally curious, it didn’t take him too long to turn the opportunity down because of the instability government was facing at the time,” the ally of Hancock said.
“Now though, the government is stable. Rishi Sunak has made a great start and the whole of the Conservative party is united behind him. Rishi has a big majority, so he can get his agenda through parliament.”
They said Hancock had talked to the whips “in the same way any MP would when going on a foreign visit, which happens all the time.”
The source said politicians “must go to where the people are – particularly those who are politically disengaged … Matt’s of the view that we must embrace popular culture. Rather than looking down on reality TV, we should see it for what it is – a powerful tool to get our message heard by younger generations.”
Hancock will make a donation to St Nicholas hospice in Suffolk, though not of the full fee, which will be disclosed in the register of members’ interests.
Ten celebrities will join the show this Sunday when the news series starts, and Hancock will be one of the late “bombshell” arrivals along with the comedian Seann Walsh, the Sun reported.
The West Suffolk MP is the latest figure from the political sphere to appear on the show after the likes of Nadine Dorries, Stanley Johnson and Lembit Opik.
Dorries was suspended by the Conservative party in 2012 after it emerged she was to take time off from parliament to be a contestant on the show. At the time, she tried to justify the decision by saying the programme would act as a platform to reach the public and raise awareness about important issues.
She was later forced to apologise to the Commons for failing to declare her fee for appearing on the show, after being censured by the parliamentary standards watchdog.
But Dorries did return to frontline politics, serving as culture secretary in Boris Johnson’s government.
Other celebrities on the lineup this year include the singer Boy George, rugby star Mike Tindall, England football player Jill Scott, Loose Women’s Charlene White, TV presenter Scarlette Douglas, comedian Babatunde Aléshé, and radio host Chris Moyles.
There will also be a number of soap and reality TV stars, including Coronation Street actor Sue Cleaver, Hollyoaks’ Owen Warner and Love Island’s Olivia Attwood.
Original posted at news.google.com