Matt Hancock touches down at Brisbane Airport ahead of his controversial I’m A Celebrity stint – after claiming he’s appearing on the show to ‘engage with voters’
- The former Health Secretary, 44, who quit after breaking his own lockdown rules by having an affair with aide Gina Coladangelo arrived Down Under on Wednesday morning
- It comes after he defended his decision to appear on the reality show, writing that it’s his job as a politician ‘to go where the people are’
- When quizzed about his upcoming stint on the reality show at the airport, he replied: ‘I had a very pleasant flight. I am keeping my mouth zipped’
- Chief Whip Simon Hart announced he had removed the whip fro Hancock – the same fate that befell Nadine Dorries when she went on the ITV show in 2012
Matt Hancock became the twelfth star to confirm their participation in I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here as he touched down at Brisbane Airport on Tuesday.
The former Health Secretary, 44, who quit after breaking his own lockdown rules by having an affair with long-time aide Gina Coladangelo, kept things casual as he arrived Down Under.
It comes after he defended his decision to appear on the reality show, writing in The Sun that it’s his job as a politician ‘to go where the people are’ and that he wants to ‘engage with voters’.
Emerging: Matt Hancock became the twelfth star to confirm their participation in I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here as he touched down at Brisbane Airport on Tuesday
He said: ‘While there will undoubtedly be those who think I shouldn’t go, I think it’s a great opportunity to talk directly to people who aren’t always interested in politics, even if they care very much about how our country’s run.
‘It’s our job as politicians to go to where the people are – not to sit in ivory towers in Westminster.
‘There are many ways to do the job of being an MP. Whether I’m 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.
‘So, the truth is, I haven’t lost my marbles or had one too many pina coladas. It’s something I’ve given a lot of thought to. I was elected by the people, and it’s important to engage with voters, especially younger voters, no matter where they are, and show the human side of politicians.
Low-key: The former Health Secretary, 44, who quit after breaking his own lockdown rules by having an affair with long-time aide Gina Coladangelo , kept things casual as he arrived Down Under
His take: It comes after he defended his decision to appear on the reality show, writing in The Sun that it’s his job as a politician ‘to go where the people are’ and that he wants to ‘engage with voters’
‘I want to raise the profile of my dyslexia campaign to help every dyslexic child unleash their potential – even if it means taking an unusual route to get there… via the Australian jungle! I’m A Celebrity… is watched by millions of Brits up and down the country.
‘I want to use this incredible platform to raise awareness, so no child leaves primary school not knowing if they have dyslexia.’
He wore a white T-shirt which he tucked into a pair of faded jeans, along with a navy cardigan and white shoes, while carrying a grey baseball cap.
When quizzed about his upcoming stint on the reality show at the airport, he replied: ‘I had a very pleasant flight. I am keeping my mouth zipped.’
It follows reports that Matt ‘angered’ bosses of SAS: Who Dares Wins after signing up to I’m A Celebrity.
Casual: He wore a white T-shirt which he tucked into a pair of faded jeans, along with a navy cardigan and white shoes, while carrying a grey baseball cap
Mum’s the word: When quizzed about his upcoming stint on the reality show at the airport, he replied: ‘I had a very pleasant flight. I am keeping my mouth zipped’
However, he is said to have already agreed to compete Celebrity SAS in September for the next series which will air in 2023.
A source told The Sun: ‘Matt was the star signing for SAS Who Dares Wins but now he’s on I’m A Celebrity it has poured cold water all over it. He will be on air on ITV’s biggest show for a month.
‘Obviously no one working on SAS is impressed as it really takes away from their show and it looks like they signed him after I’m A Celebrity – which isn’t true.’
‘Everyone is pretty angry about what has gone on and it’s not the best move Matt could have made.’
MailOnline contacted Channel 4 for comment at the time.
‘He’s poured cold water all over it!’ It follows reports that Matt angered SAS: Who Dares Wins bosses after signing up for I’m A Celebrity before his stint on the rival show airs
It comes after friends of Matt’s estranged wife Martha revealed their shock at his decision to star on I’m A Celebrity – a move that got him kicked out of the parliamentary Tory party.
One friend of Martha’s was searing in their condemnation of the father of three today, branding him a ‘total halfwit who’s making some unwise career moves’.
Meanwhile, one former minister predicted Mr Hancock would be selected for a bushtucker trial ‘every day’. Referring to the notorious challenge for contestants to eat kangaroo testicles, the Tory told MailOnline: ‘I have sympathy for the poor kangaroo.’
The politician added: ‘Is Matt Hancock technically a celebrity? I think he’s probably in a slightly lower league than Mike Tindall. If he’s eliminated in the first round he’ll be appalled. He’s going to be the hate figure, every single day he will be doing a challenge.’
Cast: (L-R) Mike Tindall, Owen Warner, Olivia Attwood, Charlene White, Boy George, Scarlette Douglas, Sue Cleaver, Chris Moyles, Babatúndé Aléshé and Jill Scott have been unveiled as the I’m A Celebrity 2022 lineup
The news drew a rapid rebuke from Number 10, with Rishi Sunak’s spokesman saying the Prime Minister believes MPs should be ‘working hard for their constituents’ at a ‘challenging time for the country’. Mr Sunak is ‘unlikely’ to watch Mr Hancock in action, the spokesman added.
Chief Whip Simon Hart announced he had removed the whip from Mr Hancock – the same fate that befell fellow Tory MP Nadine Dorries when she went on the ITV show in 2012. ‘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,’ he said.
PR expert Mark Borkowski estimated Mr Hancock could have been paid a £350,000 appearance fee. He told MailOnline: ‘They paid Noel Edmonds £500,000 and that was a top booking – either Hancock is desperate for the visibility or the money… if it’s the money I’d expect £350,000 – he should be very careful what he wishes for.’
Mr Hancock will stay as MP for West Suffolk but serve as an independent. While he will be able to keep his party membership, he will not be able to stand for election as a Conservative party candidate, vote in party contests or stand for committee chairman posts. A source close to the MP said he would donate some of the appearance fee to St Nicholas Hospice in Suffolk, but would not say how much.
Oh dear: Mr Hancock – pictured with Ms Coladangelo – will stay as MP for West Suffolk but serve as an independent. While he will be able to keep his party membership, he will not be able to stand for election as a Conservative candidate
Today, a political ally said he had accepted he was unlikely to become a minister again and wanted to connect with ‘younger generations’.
‘Politicians like Matt must go to where the people are – particularly those who are politically disengaged,’ they said. ‘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.’
Mr Hancock first turned down the opportunity to appear on the show because of ‘instability’ the government was facing at the time, according to the source. However, he now believes the administration is ‘stable’ and views his stint on the show as an ‘amazing opportunity’ to talk about issues he really cares about, they claimed.
‘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 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.
Hilarious: One friend of Mr Hancock’s estranged wife Martha (who he’s pictured with) was searing in their condemnation of the father of three today, branding him a ‘total halfwit who’s making some unwise career moves’
‘Rishi has a big majority, so he can get his agenda through Parliament. Matt’s talked to the whips, in the same way any MP would when going on a foreign visit, which happens all the time. As I say, Matt doesn’t expect to serve in Government again, but he can support Rishi and the Government in different ways. This is an amazing opportunity to engage with the public and talk about issues he really cares about – including his dyslexia campaign.’
The ally said producers of the show have agreed Mr Hancock can communicate with them if there is an urgent constituency matter. But former Tory MP Ann Widdecombe told Sky News it was wrong for a serving MP to be away ‘for weeks on end’ and asked what would happen ‘if there’s an emergency’.
Andy Drummond, deputy chairman of West Suffolk Conservative Association, said he was looking forward to seeing Mr Hancock ‘eating a kangaroo’s penis’ on the show – a reference to the notorious bushtucker trials in which contestants compete in a series of gruesome challenges to win stars. ‘Quote me, you can quote me on that,’ he added.
Who takes part in each trial goes down to a public poll, and today bookmaker Ladbrokes suggested voters’ desire for ‘payback’ had seen Mr Hancock become odds-on favourite to set a new record for the most bushtucker trials ever carried out by an I’m A Celeb contestant. It is unclear whether Mr Hancock has already arrived in Australia.
Controversy: Today’s news drew a rapid rebuke from Number 10, with Rishi Sunak’s spokesman saying the PM believes MPs should be ‘working hard for their constituents’ at a ‘challenging time for the country’
Today’s news drew mockery from political rivals, with SNP MP Pete Wishart tweeting: ‘It speaks volumes that @MattHancock would rather be stranded in a remote jungle eating kangaroo testicles than spend a moment longer on the Tory benches at Westminster, as @RishiSunak’s government lurches from one crisis to another.’
Shadow health minister Andrew Gwynne added: ‘To be fair to Matt Hancock, I’d sooner eat wallaby anus than be a Tory MP too.’
Joining Mr Hancock for three weeks of creepy crawlies are former England rugby player Mike Tindall, 80s hitmaker Boy George, Love Island star Olivia Attwood and DJ Chris Moyles. Also starring in the new series on November 6 will be actor Owen Warner, Loose Women’s Charlene White, A Place In The Sun presenter Scarlette Douglas, Coronation Street’s Sue Cleaver, comedian Babatúndé Aléshé and retired England Lioness Jill Scott.
Mr Hancock’s decision has angered those working on SAS Who Dares Wins. The Tory has also signed up for the show, which is due to air on Channel 4 next year. A source told The Sun: ‘Matt was the star signing for SAS Who Dares Wins but now he’s on I’m A Celebrity it has poured cold water all over it. He will be on air on ITV’s biggest show for a month.’
TV show: An ally of Mr Hancock said producers of the ITV show have agreed that Mr Hancock can communicate with them if there is an urgent constituency matter
What antics have MPs got up to in the I’m A Celebrity jungle
With the news that Conservative MP and former health secretary Matt Hancock will enter the Australian jungle for this year’s series of I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of
Here, we take a look back at the antics of previous political figures who have taken part in the ITV reality show.
Edwina Currie: Edwina Currie, the Conservative MP for South Derbyshire from 1983 until 1997, entered the jungle during the 14th season of I’m A Celebrity.
The 76-year-old, who also appeared on Strictly Come Dancing in 2011, joined the reality show as a late entry alongside X-Factor star Jake Quickenden.
The former junior health minister finished fourth in the competition, but not before becoming involved in a couple of heated situations.
During the series, Ms Currie found herself in a number of bust-ups with her fellow campmate, American reality star Kendra Wilkinson, and memorably shocked the other contestants with her prolonged shouting of ‘Mel’ in an attempt to get the attention of campmate Melanie Sykes.
Stanley Johnson: Former Conservative MEP Stanley Johnson braved the Australian jungle as part of the show’s 17th series.
The father of former prime minister Boris Johnson formed an unlikely friendship with Made In Chelsea star Georgia ‘Toff’ Toffolo, who went on to be crowned Queen of the Jungle that year.
After meeting on the show, 82-year-old Mr Johnson, and Ms Toffolo, 28, went on to star in a number of other reality shows together, including Celebrity Hunted and Celebrity Antiques Road Trip.
Nadine Dorries: Nadine Dorries took part in I’m A Celebrity in 2012, the first sitting MP to appear on the show, but was suspended by the Conservative Party for her appearance.
She later apologised to the House of Commons over the fee she was paid for appearing in the popular programme, which saw her become the first contestant voted out of the jungle by the public.
Lembit Opik: In 2010, former MP Lembit Opik became the second campmate to be voted off I’m A Celebrity. The Liberal Democrat survived for two weeks in the Australian jungle, during which time he was bitten by a snake while completing a task.
The 57-year-old has also appeared in celebrity versions of The Apprentice and Come Dine With Me.
Robert Kilroy-Silk: Former Labour MP and MEP Robert Kilroy-Silk had an unsuccessful stint in the I’m A Celebrity jungle in 2008.
The ex-chat show host survived just 12 days in the jungle after going up against former Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner Brian Paddick in the public vote.
Kezia Dugdale: The former Scottish Labour leader made an appearance in the jungle in 2017 – joining Conservative MEP Mr Johnson.
After being eliminated second, Ms Dugdale, 41, admitted she knew her appearance was a ‘political gamble’ but said she wanted to tackle the ‘myth’ that all politicians are ‘old, white, male, pale and stale’.
She was initially denied permission by political bosses to take part but did not ultimately face suspension from the party.
After playing a central role in coordinating the government’s response to Covid, Mr Hancock’s political career has flagged of late.
He was not awarded a post in Rishi Sunak’s new government, and the new Prime Minister appeared to snub his attempt to offer a handshake outside Tory HQ last week.
He had also reportedly been considering a run to be chairman of the Commons Treasury committee, but pulled out of the race on Monday.
Andrew Smith, a Conservative councillor on West Suffolk Council, said he could see why Mr Hancock might want to appear on I’m A Celeb ‘given what’s happened to him and his personal life and his career’.
‘I can see why he might want to do it, given what’s happened to him and his personal life and his career,’ said Mr Smith, who represents Bardwell ward.
He continued: ‘If I was him I wouldn’t have done it, to be perfectly truthful, but I’m not him.
‘It’s not a show I would watch or indeed I would personally do – I don’t like eating things that I don’t know where they’ve come from, if you get my drift.’
Fellow West Suffolk councillor Carol Bull said she hopes Mr Hancock had made the ‘right decision’.
‘He’s made the decision, presumably he’s thought about it carefully and hopefully it will be, for him, the right decision,’ said Ms Bull, who represents Barningham ward.
She continued: ‘At the end of the day, it depends how he does and how he’s perceived. There will be some who think it’s really good and others who don’t.’
But councillor Ian Houlder was less sympathetic, saying Mr Hancock ‘has no shame’. ‘It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he goes back on bended knee to whoever’s in charge of the Conservative Party after his book comes out or whatever in the winter,’ he said.
‘And say, ‘I’ve made a terrible mistake, terribly sorry, can you let me back in, we’re going to need every seat we can get, I’ll do my best,’ all that sort of thing. Because he’s thick-skinned, he’s got no shame at all.’
Mr Houlder, who represents Barrow ward, continued: ‘Everybody knows what he did during the Covid pandemic and he seems to want to rehabilitate himself all the time in the public eye. He’s got a skin as thick as a rhinoceros, quite frankly.’
Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Sarah Olney said: ‘Yet again we see a Conservative MP taking voters for granted. At a time when MPs should be supporting their constituents with the cost-of-living crisis, Matt Hancock is choosing instead to go to the jungle to feed his own ego.
‘Matt Hancock should declare how much he is earning from appearing on the show and forego his MP’s salary for the duration. The taxpayer should not pay him while he refuses to do his job.’
Mr Hancock was criticised by the TaxPayers’ Alliance, with its spokesman Joe Ventre saying: ‘Matt Hancock’s plans to wriggle out of his responsibilities are shameful.
‘This grubby spectacle will leave a bad taste in the mouths of his constituents, who will have no one representing them for the fortnight he is off pursuing his TV career.
‘Hancock shouldn’t be entitled to a penny of taxpayers’ money in salary or expenses while he’s living it large in the jungle.’
An insider told The Sun: ‘Matt is a sensational signing for the show as producers love a star with a story to tell – and they always hope they’ll spill the beans round the campfire.
‘He’s the latest in a long line of figures from the political sphere, including MP Nadine Dorries, Stanley Johnson and MP Lembit Opik. There’s been a question mark over who the twelfth campmate would be, partly because negotiations over Matt going in were so top secret. It seems Matt was a last-minute signing.’
MailOnline has contacted Mr Hancock’s representatives for comment.
Hosts: Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly will once again be hosting the ITV series, which is returning to Australia for the first time since the Covid pandemic
This year I’m A Celebrity will also make a much-anticipated return to Australia after being forced to relocate to Wales for two years due to the Covid pandemic.
Once again, Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly will be hosting the series, and have already been spotted arriving on the Gold Coast to commence filming.
Voting is now open for viewers to choose who they want to become Jungle VIPs (Very Isolated People), and the lucky few will spend their first night stranded on an island and face the first trial of the series. Voting is free via the I’m A Celebrity app, and closes on November 1 at 9pm.
I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here! returns on Sunday, November 9 at 9pm on ITV.
Back soon: I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here! returns on Sunday, November 9 at 9pm on ITV (the 2017 camp is pictured)
I’M A CELEBRITY 2022: THE FULL LINEUP
CLAIM TO FAME: Legendary pop star
PHOBIAS: Being scared
MISSING ANY BIG OCCASIONS? No, I am going straight into the jungle from playing at various festivals and gigs
ROLE IN THE CAMP: In-house dietician reassuring everyone that they will be ok on the jungle diet. And entertainer – I will sing!
BEST ATTRIBUTE: I am a very positive person and I don’t bear any grudges
DREAM CAMPMATE: It would be funny if my ex, Jon Moss, comes on the programme -but I don’t think that will happen!
CLAIM TO FAME: Radio DJ
PHOBIAS: I am petrified of heights. I ended up carrying the bags when we took my girlfriend’s niece once to Go Ape as I am so petrified!
MISSING ANY BIG OCCASIONS? A friend’s birthday, a wedding, and Leeds United matches
ROLE IN THE CAMP: Entertainer. Hopefully I can help shorten everyone’s boredom.
BEST ATTRIBUTE: Hiding food! I am going to fly out early and sneak into the jungle and hide pot noodles everywhere, then I will be everyone’s best friend!
DREAM CAMPMATE: Ant and Dec…let’s see how they cope for 24 hours!
CLAIM TO FAME: Playing Eileen Grimshaw in Coronation Street
PHOBIAS: Don’t be ridiculous! I am not going to admit to what I fear most!
MISSING ANY BIG OCCASIONS? Coronation Street and we are expecting another grandchild any day, so hopefully it will arrive before I fly out to Australia.
ROLE IN THE CAMP: I will be more of a mum – that is where I will naturally fit.
BEST ATTRIBUTE: I can cook and I am a good listener, so hopefully I will be a friendly ear for everyone.
DREAM CAMPMATE: Good Morning Britain’s Richard Arnold. He is my TV husband and it would be lovely to have an ally in camp!
CLAIM TO FAME: Presenter of A Place In The Sun
PHOBIAS: Spiders. There is no point in lying about it! I’ve got an irrational fear about them
MISSING ANY BIG OCCASIONS? Just a holiday which I can postpone
ROLE IN THE CAMP: Mum, cook and morale booster. I always like to look at the positive side in life
BEST ATTRIBUTE: I can cook and I will be good at making sure everything is tidy in camp
DREAM CAMPMATE: Mo Gilligan. He is hilarious and I totally fancy him!
CLAIM TO FAME: Comedian
PHOBIAS: I am scared of absolutely everything. Snakes, rats – I am fearful of them all and I am dreading the trials
MISSING ANY BIG OCCASIONS? I was going on tour but we’ve postponed it now until next year
ROLE IN THE CAMP: Tension breaker. If I can break tension anywhere it starts up in the camp, then I will do that. We don’t need to be bickering as it will be a first-time experience for everyone
BEST ATTRIBUTE: Hopefully I will bring some humour to the camp
DREAM CAMPMATE: I am a big Arsenal fan and so any ex-Arsenal player would be great. I am looking forward to chatting to Ant & Dec about football
CLAIM TO FAME: Rugby Union player and married to Princess Anne’s daughter Zara Tindall
PHOBIAS: I haven’t admitted to having any phobias but in a weird way, I am looking forward to taking part in the trials!
MISSING ANY BIG OCCASIONS? My podcast series and the rugby Internationals this autumn
ROLE IN THE CAMP: Morning motivator. I would like to see everyone get on well and us all have a great experience
BEST ATTRIBUTE: I am a positive person
DREAM CAMPMATE: Samuel L Jackson would be cool. He has lived the life!
CLAIM TO FAME: Playing Romeo Nightingale in Hollyoaks
MISSING ANY BIG OCCASIONS? I am a big fan of football so I will miss watching the start of the World Cup
ROLE IN THE CAMP: Entertainer and games coordinator
BEST ATTRIBUTE: It is definitely not my cooking skills or brains!
DREAM CAMPMATE: Any of the Leicester City starting 11!
CLAIM TO FAME: ITV newsreader and Loose Women anchor
PHOBIAS: I am not sure what my fear factor will be because I’ve never had rodents, spiders and snakes crawling all over me!
MISSING ANY BIG OCCASIONS? My children’s annual school ball which I am gutted about
ROLE IN THE CAMP: Mum and cook. I don’t mind falling into that position
BEST ATTRIBUTE: I like to listen and talk. I love learning about people and I have a natural curiosity for people
DREAM CAMPMATE: Colin Murray and Richard Osman
CLAIM TO FAME: Retired England Lioness
PHOBIAS: I don’t like rats and the thought of being underground fills me with fear!
MISSING ANY BIG OCCASIONS? The Men’s World Cup. I am going to find it weird not being able to know how the men are getting on in the tournament. Hopefully they will still be in the tournament when I come out of the jungle
ROLE IN THE CAMP: Helping hand. I like to help people if they aren’t having a good day
BEST ATTRIBUTE: Hard worker. I will always find a way to add value. I am also very honest
DREAM CAMPMATE: Another sports person would be great as it would be someone to bounce ideas off.
CLAIM TO FAME: Love Island star
PHOBIAS: I hate the dark so I’m keen to avoid any challenges in the darkness
MISSING ANY BIG OCCASIONS? No, had the show been on air any later, I could have missed my sister’s wedding
ROLE IN THE CAMP: Clown. I was always the class clown at school and I love having a laugh
BEST ATTRIBUTE: I don’t take myself seriously and I have got a good sense of humour
DREAM CAMPMATE: A pop legend like Dolly Parton who has amazing stories to tell
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