Tory MP makes a jibe at Matt Hancock's I'm A Celeb deal

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Matt Hancock’s upcoming a much-publicised appearance on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here “defies all coherent explanation”, a comedian has said. Simon Evans, who has taken part in topical programmes on radio and TV, is the latest in a long line of people to criticise the former Health Secretary for the reality TV stunt.

Mr Hancock had the Tory whip suspended after it emerged that he was joining the reality show at a time when Parliament is sitting and has faced criticism from opposition politicians and from within his own party.

Families of people who died of Covid have drawn attention to the role he played in the Government’s pandemic response.

Meanwhile others have questioned whether his notability qualified as celebrity – as the ITV show’s name implied.

However, he is just the latest in a long line of politicians who have taken part in reality telly. Former Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries appeared in the antipodean endurance test in 2012.

Former Spandau Ballet singer Tony Hadley, who went on the show in 2014, said he thought the Tory MP would come to regret the decision, adding: “Politicians need to be above celebrity, and I don’t think it’s a good move for him.”

Mr Evans wrote on Wednesday that Mr Hancock was heading “face down into the sweaty soft-play crashmat that awaits the end of every modern political career”.

He accused the former front-bencher of “skiving off to join the postmodern circus that is I’m an Elected Representative… What the Hell Am I Doing Here?”

Mr Hancock previously told the Sun he wants to use the “incredible platform” the show provides to raise awareness of dyslexia.

He insisted that it “wasn’t the cheque” that had pushed him to decide to join I’m a Celebrity.

The Tory MP for West Suffolk has been reported to be around £400,000 – far higher than the £150,000 previously mooted.

A spokesperson for Mr Hancock said: “Matt will be making a donation to St Nicholas Hospice in Suffolk and causes supporting dyslexia off the back of his appearance.”

They added: “He will also declare the amount he receives from the show to Parliament to ensure complete transparency, as normal.”

Mr Evans reacted: “However badly he is personally afflicted by that regrettable encumbrance, he can surely at least read the room?

“There is no conceivable cause that would now benefit from association with Matt Hancock, and many that will simply confirm society’s worst suspicions.

“So astonishingly pi**-poor is this stunt that his own colleagues are climbing over one another to denounce him in the most unambiguous terms.

“To a man, they wish a diet of sushi-style kangaroo c*** on him, to which the seasoning of inescapable public opprobrium is not known to add much savour. And more seriously, they demand his immediate and irreversible withdrawal from serious political discourse.”

While politicians – including Conservatives – have been quick to criticise the move, today Penny Mordaunt defended Mr Hancock in the House of Commons.

Responding to a question from Labour, she said: “When I heard that a colleague was volunteering to be squeezed into small spaces with slippery creatures, was going to have to swallow unpalatable things to achieve their goals and that their credibility and dignity was placed in jeopardy, I was assuming you were talking about a member of the Opposition frontbench, not the member for West Suffolk.”

Citing her appearance in a short-lived diving-based BBC programme called Splash!, she said: “Honourable members will find it hard to believe given my performance at the time was compared to having the elegance of a paving slab being pushed off a scaffold, but I did actually have training, but none of my time was spent away from this House.”

Writing for Spiked, Mr Evans jocularly speculated on three possible reasons as to why Mr Hancock may have chosen to appear on the often-degrading programme.

Noting his resignation from his Government position after leaked CCTV footage showed him kissing a woman who was not his wife, at a time when social distancing was still in place, the comedian said it was due to his continued “failure to grasp the low esteem” he is held in.

Alternately, he said Mr Hancock “has suddenly and brilliantly revealed his true identity, and the daring stunt of his having masqueraded as an ‘MP’ for many years”.

Mr Evans, who once appeared with Mr Hancock in 2018, suggested it could be that the former Health Secretary was living “as a hologram” after a “transition to the digital realm”.

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