On Tuesday (1 November), it was reported that the MP, who resigned as health secretary in 2021 after violating his own Covid regulations, would be entering the Australian jungle for the new series.
His participation was inadvertently confirmed by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, whose official spokesperson condemnned Hancock’s decision to join the reality show.
“The PM believes that at a challenging time for the country, MPs should be working hard for their constituents in the House or in their constituencies,” the spokesperson said, adding: “The public when they elect their MPs, expect them to work hard for their constituency.”
Following this, Chief Whip Simon Hart MP said his appointment on the reality serises was “a matter serious enough to warrant suspension of the whip with immediate effect”.
TV viewers are also condemning Hancock’s inclusion, with many expressing anger that the producers would permit him to feature on the series. This is due to the emotional feelings it could dredge up for families who lost loved ones during the pandemic.
Hancock stepped down as health secretary after admitting he broke Covid rules during an alleged affair with an aide in his departmental office. His actions went against the regulations he signed off as part of the government’s response to the pandemic.
His part in the series has been branded “sickening”, ”upsetting” and “misguided”, and as a consequence, Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, a group fighting for a public inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic, set up a petition calling for his removal.
The petition’s bio reads: “Matt Hancock isn’t a ‘celebrity’, he’s the health secretary who oversaw the UK having one of the highest death tolls in the world from Covid-19 whilst breaking his own lockdown rule. If he had any respect for families who lost loved ones to Covid-19, he would be sharing his private emails with the Covid Inquiry, not eating bugs on TV.”
At the time of his resignation, the group said it was “clear Matt Hancock needs to go and it’s absolutely right that he’s gone”.
Co-founder Jo Goodman said: “While this government was preaching social distancing, the health secretary was acting like it was one rule for him and another rule for everyone else. It’s a pattern of behaviour we’ve seen across government over this period and it cuts deep with bereaved families who’ve been doing everything we can to follow the rules and protect others.”
ITV told The Independent: “We announced the line-up yesterday and so we’ve nothing to add to the speculation.”
I’m a Celebrity starts on Sunday 6 November at 9pm on ITV, and will feature, among others, singer Boy George, DJ Chris Moyles and Coronation Street star Sue Cleaver. Find the full 2022 cast here.