OPINION - Matt Hancock suspended as a Tory MP over ‘I’m a Celebrity’

 (Ben Turner)
(Ben Turner)

We’ve been through a lot together, Matt. The MH app (still available to download on Google Play /App store), the hardcore parkour running videos, the TikToks. How you managed to fit in a decade of ministerial experience – culture secretary, health secretary, minister for Portsmouth – I’ll never know.

So I can’t say I’m angry, or at least no more than I could be at a root vegetable for ruining a crème anglaise. I mean, what did I expect? That having been spurned by Rishi Sunak for a place in the cabinet and failed to garner enough support to run for Treasury Select Committee chair, you would be content to sit on the backbenches and work tirelessly to build cross-party support for a private member’s bill?

Still, I take an interest because I’ve defended Hancock over the years. He made major errors during the pandemic, not least the discharging of Covid patients into care homes which exposed thousands of people to the virus in the early months.

At the same time, he got other big calls right: on vaccines (that there would be one, and soon) and lockdowns (for god’s sake, do it now). Meanwhile Sunak, who often took antithetical positions, is now prime minister.

I’ve buried the lede but you already know the story. Matt Hancock is to follow in the footsteps of Nadine Dorries and other political heavyweights such as Stanley Johnson and Lembit Opik in joining the cast of I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!

The loss of representation for the people of West Suffolk is television’s gain, I suppose. His punishment is to lose the whip – though Boris Johnson seemed to avoid a similar fate despite taking holidays while the House was sitting.

I can’t bring myself to lock Hancock up and throw away the key. Maybe it’s the remorselessly receding hairline he’s gamely broadcast to the nation for over a decade, the try-hard spirit or the intense need to be loved. I’ve even forgotten about his rebranding into a crypto bro. In an age of anti-heroes, Matt Hancock is my Tony Soprano.

I’m conscious this may be a minority view. I accept his self-serving reasoning for appearing on the show – that Hancock merely wants to connect with the youth – grates. Perhaps Andy Drummond, deputy chairman of West Suffolk Conservative Association, put it best when he told the Press Association he was “looking forward to him eating a kangaroo’s penis. Quote me. You can quote me that.”

Elsewhere in the paper, the launch of “through running” on the Elizabeth line will have to be temporarily curtailed after only a day because of a series of rail strikes.

In the comment pages, Nimco Ali says she’s sick of people who only care about climate change for the cameras. While Rachel Naunton says one borough (no prizes for guess which) should not be allowed to hold up safe cycling across the capital.

And finally, London-based photographer Freya Najade has published a new book exploring the wilderness of Hackney Marshes. A few pictures here to whet the appetite.

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