Why Matt Hancock's future could be decided in the next seven days

·5-min read
Matt Hancock on I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here (ITV)
Matt Hancock finished third on I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! (ITV)

Three weeks in the Australian jungle has propelled Matt Hancock to being one of the most controversial MPs currently in public life.

And while there has been plenty of speculation as to his future, the MP for West Suffolk does not plan to quit his job, according to a friend.

Regardless of his plans, it seems likely Hancock's future will be decided in the next week because of a Conservative Party deadline linked to the next general election.

The former health secretary finished third in ITV's I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! on Sunday, despite huge controversy about his appearance on the show.

He carried out 10 Bushtucker trials during his 18 days in the Australian jungle, where he came behind the winner, footballer Jill Scott, and runner-up, Hollyoaks actor Owen Warner, in a public vote.

Watch: Matt Hancock says thank you for votes after coming third in I'm A Celebrity

With his political future now in the balance, an ally told the PA news agency: "Matt has no intention of standing down."

After he exited the jungle, Hancock told hosts Ant and Dec: "I know that it was controversial me coming here.

"I know some people said people in your position shouldn’t put themselves in embarrassing situations.

“But we’re all human and we all put ourselves in it. We are normal people.”

After leaving the interview, he hugged partner Gina Coladangelo, the former aide with whom he had an affair that forced his resignation as health secretary in June last year.

Read more: Matt Hancock making I'm A Celebrity final sparks anger and outrage

The Sun has since reported that Coladangelo has met with a PR friend to discuss a "change of career" for Hancock, but his spokesperson denied this, telling the MailOnline: "Matt has no intention of standing down or stepping away from politics."

Hancock was suspended from the Conservative parliamentary party and criticised by his colleagues, including prime minister Rishi Sunak, for his appearance on the show.

Matt Hancock on I'm A Celebrity during bushtucker trial 'Flood Your Face'
Matt Hancock took part in 10 Bushtucker trials during his 18 days on the show. (ITV)

Campaigners from the COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group also criticised his appearance, for a fee of reportedly as much as £400,000.

Will Matt Hancock remain an MP?

With the Conservative whip removed, there are questions over whether the currently independent MP will be able to run again for parliament.

Having the whip removed means an MP is effectively expelled from their parliamentary party, but keeps their seat in the House of Commons.

They must sit as an independent MP until their party decides to restore the whip.

That means Hancock's political fate could be decided within days, as Tory MPs have been given until 5 December to decide whether they want to stand at the next general election, after which the party may choose a new candidate for his safe seat.

Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock hands his coat to his aide Gina Coladangelo (L) before a television interview outside BBC's Broadcasting House in London, Britain, May 16, 2021. Picture taken May 16, 2021. REUTERS/Tom Nicholson
Former health secretary Matt Hancock, right, resigned in June 2021 after leaked CCTV showed him kissing his former aide Gina Coladangelo, left, in his ministerial office, breaching his own COVID rules. (Reuters)

If the whip is not restored by the deadline, he remains officially unaffiliated, and the party will have to begin the process of choosing a new candidate for his seat.

If he does get the whip back by 5 December, Hancock could still be frozen out of the next general election by his local association.

When fellow Tory MP Nadine Dorries entered the jungle in 2012, it was six months before she was readmitted to the party.

Should Hancock wish to run again, he will need to make a written application to their executive council, which will hold a secret ballot.

If he does not get their support, he will have the right to request a postal vote of the full membership of the association.

Alternatively, he can have his name automatically added to the final list of candidates to be considered at a general meeting of the local party.

What have his colleagues said about him?

Many Conservative colleagues have been embarrassed and outraged by Hancock’s decision to enter the jungle while parliament is sitting.

Transport secretary Mark Harper told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “I don’t think serving members of parliament should be taking place in reality television programmes.

Matt Hancock MP pictured giving media interviews on College Green, Westminster, after prime minister Boris Johnson announced his resignation. Picture date: Thursday July 7, 2022. Photo credit should read: Matt Crossick/Empics
Matt Hancock says he wants to remain an MP. (PA)

“However well they do on them I still think they should be doing the job for which they are paid a good salary which is representing their constituents.”

But former cabinet minister Theresa Villiers supported Hancock, saying the “great human being” has “shown incredible resilience and bravery”.

Labour MP Dawn Butler said Hancock's appearance on the show was "an insult to all who have suffered through COVID".

What will Hancock do next?

He is expected to face his constituents when he fulfils his promise to hold surgeries with them on his return.

He had insisted they were his “first priority” when entering the jungle, claiming the reality TV show would be an “honest and unfiltered” way to communicate with voters.

His team said he will make a donation from his appearance fee to St Nicholas Hospice in Suffolk and he will be required to declare the amount he receives from the show to parliament.

Hancock has also been criticised after a report in The Guardian claimed his PR team had lobbied for I'm A Celebrity votes on TikTok.

Labour MP and shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry tweeted: "Sorry? What? Matt Hancock has a PR firm working to support his popularity in I'm A Celeb! We really shouldn't let them get away with this."