From the political jungle in Westminster to an actual jungle in Australia, Britain’s scandal-tarred former health secretary Matt Hancock has courted fresh controversy by participating in a reality TV show.
The 44-year-old Conservative MP has drawn criticism from colleagues within his own ruling party after disappearing from parliament to be in the latest series of “I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!”
The popular ITV show takes a group of household names — some better known than others — to a rainforest in Australia, pitting them against the elements and challenges involving snakes and other creepy-crawlies.
Since making his first appearance a week ago, Hancock — an ever-present public figure during the Covid pandemic who was then forced to step down after breaching social distancing rules — has been filmed partaking in a series of wincing scenes.
The MP has eaten kangaroo testicles, been sprayed with slime, had to deal with spiders and cockroaches, faced an impressive snake in an attack position, and been stung by a scorpion.
His antics, fairly typical for the reality survival series first launched in 2002, have left sceptical fellow lawmakers back in Britain fuming.
“He should be here with us voting and debating in parliament,” Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris told Sky News.
– ‘Respect’ –
The Tories suspended Hancock from the party shortly after he announced his participation in the show, and he will be forced to sit as an independent MP when he returns.
Its head of parliamentary discipline, Chief Whip Simon Hart MP, said the matter was “serious enough to order his suspension with immediate effect”.
He is not the first politician to appear on the show. Nadine Dorries was also suspended from the Tories in 2012 for taking part.
However, seven years later, she was able to enter government, serving first as a health minister and then from 2021-2022 as culture secretary in Boris Johnson’s government.
But new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has not hidden his displeasure at Hancock.
“It is incumbent on all members of parliament to do the things that earn people’s respect and that’s serving your constituents really well, making a difference to them in surgeries,” he told reporters at the G20 summit in Bali this week.
Mark Garnett, a senior lecturer in politics at Lancaster University in northwest England, said despite losing his status as a Tory MP, there was little else to deter Hancock from entering the jungle.
He resigned from Johnson’s government in June last year after being captured on leaked security camera footage at work in a steamy clinch with his advisor and former university friend, Gina Coladangelo.
He subsequently left his wife and their children and had been reportedly angling for a political comeback — but was entirely overlooked for a ministerial job by Sunak last month.
“He has nothing to lose. It’s very unlikely that he would have been a senior politician again….