Matt Hancock and I’m a Celebrity: where to next?
With the I’m a Celebrity final complete, Harry Craig evaluates Matt Hancock appearance on the show.
When Matt Hancock signed up for I’m A Celebrity: Get Me Out Of Here last month, perhaps he naïvely hoped to recreate the Trumpian route from reality TV star to the most powerful man in the country. Or maybe less ambitiously, he wanted to follow the path of Ed Balls and Michael Portillo from politics into a cushy job in light entertainment.
However, the Australian jungle is not as glamorous as the Apprentice boardroom or Strictly ballroom, and in spite of Hancock’s against-the-odds success in reaching the final, he doesn’t ooze the charisma one would desire from a prospective television star.
Wherever Hancock goes next, it is unlikely to be back into frontline politics. The former Health Secretary, now backbench MP for West Suffolk, had the Conservative party whip suspended on 1 November for going into the jungle whilst Parliament was sitting, effectively leaving his constituents without a representative for a month. Hancock’s future with the party now remains unclear.
He naïvely hoped to recreate the Trumpian route from reality TV star to the most powerful man in the country
For Hancock, a return to the lion’s den of politics is probably not what he wants anyway. Politicians are infamously hated by the public, whereas Hancock, in spite of his gross mishandling of the Covid pandemic, has somewhat recovered his public image through the penance of eating camel penis on TV. Even Tony Blair, not the first person one would expect to defend a former Tory minister, defended Hancock as “courageous” and said he had shown a more human side.
It appears that much of the British public feels the same way, voting for Hancock all the way to the final. Initially, he was voted for every single Bushtucker Trial following his arrival in the jungle, but this meant natural audience sympathy kicked in – TikTok users even began making fan cams of the former Health Secretary. Hancock’s PR stunt to rehabilitate his reputation seems to have been a resounding success. Is this the full story, however?
Tony Blair, not the first person one would expect to defend a former Tory minister, defended Hancock
A YouGov poll on 28 November found that just 14 per cent of people had a more positive view of Hancock due to the show, with 40 per cent retaining a negative opinion of him. Although the show gave Hancock an opportunity to ask for “a bit of forgiveness” for breaking lockdown guidance, it also plays increased scrutiny on his record as Health Secretary, with campaign group 38 Degrees flying a banner reading “Covid bereaved say get out of here!” over the camp. With Covid public inquiry hearings set to begin at some point next year, Hancock is likely to face more criticism for his handling of the pandemic, over failures to provide adequate PPE for healthcare workers and discharging patients from hospitals to care homes without testing them for Covid. This may render his reality TV popularity short-lived, even with a planned appearance on SAS: Who Dares Wins in the new year.
Public anger towards Hancock has not completely disappeared because he spent three weeks in the Australian jungle. His attempts to justify the violation of lockdown guidance that led to his resignation as “falling in love” sounded insincere at best and much of the sympathy seen on social media for Hancock was due to a carefully-cultivated TV PR appearance. He may believe he has now faced his penance, but the public is still yet to have their verdict.