Matt Hancock was suspended as a Tory MP on Tuesday after signing up to take part in I’m A Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!
The former health secretary is due to swap representing his constituents at Westminster for eating bugs in the jungle in Australia later this month.
His decision has been met with widespread criticism, including from campaigners for families bereaved in the Covid pandemic, and saw the Tory whip swiftly removed.
Chief Whip Simon Hart MP 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.”
Rishi Sunak criticised Mr Hancock for going on the ITV show in the middle of a worsening cost-of-living crisis.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The Prime Minister believes that at a challenging time for the country, MPs should be working hard for their constituents, whether that’s in the House (of Commons) or indeed in their constituency.”
Matt Hancock's choice to go off gallivanting on reality TV is an insult to his constituents and the thousands who died because of his mismanagement of the pandemic.
It smacks of entitlement. If Hancock can't be bothered to do his job, he should stand down and call a byelection.
— Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP (@BellRibeiroAddy) November 1, 2022
While 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.”
The former Health Secretary is expected to be one of two latecomers to join ten celebrities already heading for the jungle in Australia, according to the Sun.
Nadine Dorries also had the whip suspended when she took part in the show a decade ago.
However, an ally of the former health secretary said participating in the show will allow him to connect with “younger generations”.
They 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?
“Politicians like Matt 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.”
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. https://t.co/DDHlQ0EEKs
— Chris Bryant (@RhonddaBryant) November 1, 2022
But Mr Hancock’s decision to enter the jungle drew criticism from within his own party as well as from political opponents and campaigners.
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 a skin as thick as a rhinoceros, quite frankly."
Tory MP Tim Loughton said Mr Hancock had been an "absolute prat".
"I'm completely disappointed and disgusted that he's put his self and a so-called celebrity career ahead of serving his constituents," he told Times Radio.
SNP MP Pete Wishart said: "It speaks volumes that Matt Hancock would rather be stranded in a remote jungle eating kangaroo testicles than spend a moment longer on the Tory benches at Westminster, as Rishi Sunak's government lurches from one crisis to another."
A TV insider told The Sun: “Matt is a sensational signing for the show as producers love a star with a story to tell - and they always hope they’ll spill the beans round the campfire.
“He’s the latest in a long line of figures from the political sphere, including MP Nadine Dorries, Stanley Johnson and MP Lembit Opik.”
Mr Hancock resigned as Health Secretary in June last year the day after video footage emerged of him kissing an aide in his ministerial office in a breach of coronavirus restrictions.
He backed Rishi Sunak for the leadership in the summer and last week but was not brought back into government.
The other latecomer to I’m A Celebrity was reported to be comedian Seann Walsh, 36.
I’m A Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here! 2022 Contestants
The line-up of 10 celebrities already on the show include singer Boy George, Coronation Street actress Sue Cleaver, Hollyoaks’ Owen Warner, Love Island’s Olivia Attwood, former England rugby player Mike Tindall, TV presenter Scarlette Douglas, Loose Women’s Charlene White, Radio X host Chris Moyles, England football player Jill Scott and comedian Babatunde Aléshé.
Mr Hancock is yet to comment.