Britain’s former health minister Matt Hancock has been suspended as Tory whip after a source close to him said he will appear on a reality TV show “I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here,” the Guardian reported on Tuesday.
“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,” the Conservative Chief Whip, Simon Hart said.
Hancock is set to be the 12th contestant to enter the show which features celebrities living together in a jungle environment for several weeks, undertaking grueling tasks in a competition to be crowned “King” or “Queen of the Jungle.”
The politician faced backlash from Tory whips and his constituency party over his decision to partake in the show. As a result, he will now sit as an independent MP.
The show also overlaps with when the House of Commons will be in session.
According to the Guardian, a source close to Hancock said that the show’s producers agreed to let him stay in touch with his constituents throughout the show in case urgent matters arise while he was filming in the jungle.
They also added that the politician did not expect to serve in the cabinet again.
“I’m A Celeb is the most watched show on TV. Matt doesn’t expect to serve in government again, so it’s an incredible opportunity for him to engage with the 12 million Brits who tune in every single night,” they said.
The source reportedly said that, as an MP, Hancock could do his job in “many ways,” “whether he’s 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.”
The former health secretary initially turned down an offer to appear on the show but then reconsidered his decision after Liz Truss’s resignation last month.
“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 Hancock 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. Rishi has a big majority, so he can get his agenda through parliament.”
Hancock backed Sunak in the leadership contest, but was not asked to return to the cabinet, the Guardian reported.
The source added that Hancock talked to the whips “in the same way any MP would when going on a foreign visit, which happens all the time.”
They added that politicians “must go to where the people are – particularly those who are politically disengaged … 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.”
The first episode of the show’s new season is set to air this Sunday and its new lineup will include controversial comedian Seann Walsh, along with other soap stars, a royal and pop legends, according to UK newspaper, The Sun.
Earlier this week, the former health minister announced a new book ‘Pandemic Diaries’ which will outline his experiences as the UK’s health secretary during the COVID-19 pandemic, and pulled out of the running to chair the Treasury select committee.
Hancock also filmed another reality show earlier this year, according to the Guardian, and is set to compete in the next series of Channel 4’s ‘celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins.’
He resigned from his post as health minister last year when leaked CCTV footage showed him kissing his closest aide Gina Coladangelo in his ministerial office. The scandal stirred controversy given he was in breach of his own COVID-19 rules on social distancing.
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