Government officials have been sent into meltdown after reports that former Health Secretary and Newcastle United fan Matt Hancock is set to appear on this year's I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! in Australia.
ITV is yet to confirm reports that the West Suffolk MP has signed up for the show, which begins on Sunday, November 6, as a late arrival. Mr Hancock was not named in the initial list of 10 celebrities but it has been reported by a number of outlets that he has put pen to paper to enter the show in the coming weeks.
The news has sparked outrage both in the Government and online, with the Tory politician's whip being removed by the party. 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."
The politician famously served as Health Secretary during the Covid-19 pandemic between July 2018 and June 2021. Mr Hancock was disgraced when footage of him breaching social distancing rules by having an affair with Department of Health adviser Gina Coladangelo emerged. The scandal led to his resignation from the role.
As news of Mr Hancock's potential appearance on I'm a Celeb breaks, many politicians have condemned the MP for taking part whilst working as an MP. Labour MP Chris Bryant, Chair of the Commons standards committee, wrote: "There is something deeply unpleasant about the former health secretary playing around in the jungle when his constituents are facing a cost of living crisis and long Covid sufferers are looking for answers from the inquiry."
Fans of I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! have also flocked to social media to share their opinions on the news. One user wrote “surely he cannot embarrass himself any more” whilst others branded the news as “disgraceful”. Another wrote: “Matt Hancock’s used to spending time with snakes so I imagine I’m A Celeb will feel like home from home for him.”
Whilst not from the North East, Matt Hancock is well known to be a Newcastle United fan thanks to his family's connections to the North East.
As well as often having the black-and-white jersey in video call backgrounds, when speaking to the Northern Echo in 2020, he said: "I’m a Newcastle fan because my uncle Dave is a Geordie and when I was growing up in Chester, he used to take me every Christmas to the Man U/Newcastle game. That was in the era of Kevin Keegan, Alan Shearer, and the heady days when we got almost to the top of the table. It has its ups and downs being a Newcastle fan but it all stems from Uncle Dave.”
The confirmed 10 celebrities taking part in the show so far are Jill Scott, Babatunde Aléshé, Boy George, Charlene White, Chris Moyles, Mike Tindall, Olivia Atwood, Owen Warner, Scarlette Douglas and Sue Cleaver.