Matt Hancock: Question Time audience share their thoughts
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Matt Hancock is appearing on this year’s series of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, with the former Health Secretary heading into the Jungle with the likes of singer Boy George, as well ex-rugby player and Princess Anne’s son-in-law, Mike Tindall. Explaining his decision, the MP for West Suffolk said he had not “lost his marbles”, but was doing so to connect with the public and to raise awareness about dyslexia, which he has. He has faced a barrage of criticism, however, with Rory Stewart and Alistair Campbell claiming he is heading Down Under simply to boost his public profile.
Following the announcement, Mr Hancock was suspended as a Conservative MP as the chief whip, Simon Hart, said it was “serious enough” to warrant him having the whip removed.
Mr Hancock, defending his decision while writing in The Sun, said he wanted to use the hit show as an “incredible platform” to raise the profile of his dyslexia campaign, adding that it is a politician’s job to “go where the people are” rather than sit in “ivory towers in Westminster”.
Mr Hancock – who was diagnosed with dyslexia when he was 18 – has been campaigning to bring in a bill that would require screening in schools in England for dyslexia.
However, Mr Campbell – journalist and former spin doctor for Tony Blair – dismissed the former Health Secretary’s claims, calling him a “bit of a t**t”, arguing that Mr Hancock’s bid to raise awareness for his campaign was a “pretence”.
Speaking on the Rest is Politics podcast episode, released on Wednesday, November 2, he said: “Once you’ve decided that you’re going to carry on as an MP, but go off to the Jungle, and take part in I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here!, and pretend that it’s all related to your campaign for dyslexia, is just kind of ‘go away’ time.”
However, Stanley Johnson, who appeared on the show in 2017, said he believed Mr Hancock will campaign as much as possible for dyslexia while he is in the Jungle. Speaking to LBC, he said: “He said that he is going to be seeking at all possible moments to raise the issue of dyslexia.
“I take him at his word there. I tried at all possible moments to raise the issue of climate change, general warming, biodiversity. A lot of those things hit the cutting room floor I’m sure. But I’m not going to join in this great chorus of indignation about Matt Hancock.”
Over the course of the pandemic, the public saw “a lot of his love for his public profile” and “being at the lectern and telling us what we could do with our lives”, Mr Campbell said. The then Health Secretary was regularly seen on television during the daily briefings, updating the public on the latest guidance and COVID-19 vaccine rollout. He has written a book about the period called, ‘The Pandemic Diaries: The Inside Story of Britain’s Battle Against Covid’.
Last year, Mr Hancock was forced to resign after leaked CCTV footage emerged of him kissing his aide, Gina Coladangelo, meaning he had breached social distancing guidelines.
Now, his only hope is to become “really famous”, through the “Trump effect”, named after the businessman and former US President Donald Trump, where politicians become celebrities in order to get ahead, Mr Stewart claimed.
Under former Prime Minister David Cameron, Mr Hancock was the Minister for the Cabinet Office before becoming Minister of State for Digital Culture under Theresa May. But following his resignation from Boris Johnson’s Cabinet, he was not made a Minister by Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak.
Mr Stewart said Mr Hancock would have hoped to regain a ministerial position and would have been left “very confused” by having to “rattle around in the back benches”, with heading to the Jungle being a way to “reboot his political career in real despair”.
He said: “It’s a very interesting move… so Matt Hancock is a very unusual politician, he’s very able, he’s probably one of the brighter politicians… At the Cabinet table, I remember him – even when we were junior Ministers together – as quite an effective, punchy performer… I think his calculation to go on I’m a Celebrity is based on the ‘Trump effect’ which is a theory which is entering politics that if you’re going to make it now, you have to be a sort of celebrity and that that was a sort of Donald Trump/Boris Johnson lesson.”
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He added: “It’s interesting that Simon Hart, who is the new chief whip, has moved so quickly to say that this is not acceptable because, of course, it’s during parliamentary term. He’s meant to be representing his constituents and attending parliament, not sitting in the jungle being filmed.”
Constituents in West Suffolk are reportedly “furious” with Mr Hancock’s new venture, The Mirror reported, as voters in Newmarket said he had “abandoned” his post with one clothes shop owner, Roy Fox, saying he had written to the former Health Secretary but not had a response in more than two months.
The campaign group, COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Group, also hit out at Mr Hancock, tweeting that he was “trying to cash in on his terrible legacy” rather than taking the time to reflect on the “appalling consequences” of his time in Government.
Mr Hancock, who is reportedly being paid £400,000 to appear on the hit show, has said he will donate some of his fee to a hospice in his constituency and dyslexia charities. He is also due to appear on Channel 4’s SAS: Who Dares Wins which will air next year.
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