I'm A Celeb: Matt Hancock slammed by Ann Widdecombe
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Matt Hancock has been slammed for “disappearing” off to the jungle to take part in ITV’s I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here despite having been a serving Member of Parliament. Anne Widdecombe, the former senior Tory MP, criticised the former health secretary for abandoning his constituency “for weeks on end” without any “real necessity”, positing the problem of what would happen “if there was an emergency in his constituency tomorrow morning”. The former cabinet minister has been stripped of the Tory whip following his announcement that he had signed up, while critics have accused him of “cashing in on his terrible legacy”.
Ms Widdecombe said: “The fact is he will say that he has got people working for him in his office, that he is still supplying the same service.
“As far as I am concerned, no serving MP should disappear onto a reality programme, whether it be Big Brother, whether it is Strictly, whether it is the jungle, for weeks on end, which is what it is, unless of course he gets kicked out early.
“Who is going to pick up his work? Does he have an arrangement with a neighbouring constituent MP for example, which is what you would do if you were ill or some other real necessity took you away.
“Who is going to do it? What happens if there is an emergency in his constituency tomorrow morning? Who deals with it?”
Mr Hancock was a surprise extra name added to the list of contenders for the ITV reality show. Allies have said he will use his appearance to promote his work on dyslexia.
But given it would mean being away from Parliament, the Tories suspended the whip, while campaigners for families bereaved in the Covid-19 pandemic accused him of trying to “cash in on his terrible legacy”.
The response at Westminster was swift after news that West Suffolk MP Mr Hancock would join the ITV show, which starts on Sunday.
Chief whip Simon Hart said: “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 Prime Minister’s official spokesman said it was “unlikely” Rishi Sunak would be watching the programme.
“The PM believes that at a challenging time for the country MPs should be working hard for their constituents whether that is in the House or in their constituency,” the spokesman said.
Mr Hancock was forced to quit as health secretary in June 2021 after breaking coronavirus social distancing rules by conducting an affair in his ministerial office with aide Gina Coladangelo.
Justifying the decision to go on the ITV reality show, an ally of Mr Hancock said: “There are many ways to do the job of being an MP.
“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. Where better to show the human side of those who make these decisions than with the most watched programme on TV?”
Mr Hancock will make a donation to St Nicholas Hospice in Suffolk in light of his departure and will be required to declare the amount he receives from the show to Parliament.
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But his decision to enter the jungle drew criticism from political opponents, union chiefs and campaigners.
Lobby Akinnola, from the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice campaign, said: “Matt Hancock isn’t a ‘celebrity’, he’s the former health secretary who oversaw the UK having one of the highest death tolls in the world from Covid-19 whilst breaking his own lockdown rules.
“The fact that he is trying to cash in on his terrible legacy, rather than showing some humility or seeking to reflect on the appalling consequences of his time in Government, says it all about the sort of person he is.”
In Mr Hancock’s constituency, Andy Drummond, deputy chairman (political) of West Suffolk Conservative Association, said: “I’m looking forward to him eating a kangaroo’s penis. Quote me. You can quote me that.”
Ian Houlder, a Conservative councillor on West Suffolk Council, said Mr Hancock has “no shame”.
“Everybody knows what he did during the Covid pandemic and he seems to want to rehabilitate himself all the time in the public eye,” Mr Houlder said. He’s got skin as thick as a rhinoceros, quite frankly.”
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