The Tynemouth-born panellist had readily voiced her disfavour for the politician during the Covid-19 pandemic, deeming that his restrictions became too extreme in stopping families from seeing their elderly loved ones. Denise’s late father Vin Welch, a Geordie who lived in Durham, struggled with loneliness and the actress was distraught at not being able to visit.
Vin, who Denise described as a “life force” in a touching tribute, passed away in 2021 from pneumonia. At the time, Denise admitted she had broken Mr Hancock’s restrictions to visit her father from Cheshire to spend what would become their last Christmas together - a decision she is “glad” she took.
Reacting to the news that the former Health Secretary had signed up to take part in the ITV flagship competition, hosted by Ant & Dec, a seething Denise said: “I am fuming and I am disgusted. I cannot find any humour in this appointment at all. As far as I’m concerned, we are still suffering the repercussions of what happened over the last few years. I was very vocal about some Covid restrictions being incredibly unnecessary and the impact that they would have on people’s lives, livelihoods and mental health. Matt Hancock was at the forefront of those.
“There are people who were not allowed to see their family for a year! Remember it was illegal to get in your car and go and visit a loved one. I couldn’t do a test and go and visit my dad who was lonely in his house whilst he [Hancock] was having an affair with some woman in the broom closet or wherever he was.”
Denise went on to joke that she had never particularly envied celebrities who signed up to take part in the show and its gruesome challenges, but wouldn’t even need a paycheck for an hour of jungle discomfort if it gave her a chance to lock horns with the politician.
She said: “I don’t care whoever he is. He’s going to go in there and pretend he is Mr Nice Guy. I’ve never envied people going in the jungle, but I’d go in there for nowt for one hour with Matt Hancock.”
Following news of his appearance on I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! breaking yesterday, the Conservative Party removed the whip from the politician. Chief Whip Simon Hart, who handles party discipline, 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.”
Mr Hancock would not be the first politician to appear on the hit ITV show, following in the footsteps of former culture secretary Nadine Dorries, Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik and Scottish Labour Party Kezia Dugdale. The BBC has reported that sources close to the former Health Secretary said: “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. Matt has told the whips in Parliament and he will use his time in the jungle to promote his dyslexia campaign.”