Where would you rank it, in the Top 10 reasons for Tory MPs to have been kicked out of the parliamentary party since the general election?
So far – deep breath now – you’ve got sexual harassment, multiple counts of sexual harassment, watching porn in House of Commons, being convicted of sexually assaulting a child, corrupt lobbying activities, groping and drunken groping. So yes, where in that list do you place the latest entry, which is agreeing to eat ostrich anus?
It’s probably not criminal, is it, even if you do tend to have to leave this particular jurisdiction to do it. And one wonders if the timing is ideal. In a few days’ time, Rishi Sunak is probably going to be very reluctantly flying to a climate conference in Egypt to announce that humanity has to change its ways or else accept its catastrophic future. That we could just do the basics, you know: fly less, cut down on meat.
And as a direct result, right now, somewhere in Downing Street, someone will be having to prepare an answer to the question he will inevitably be asked. Which is whether it’s OK that a Tory MP should be flying double long-haul return in order to eat a kangaroo’s penis?
Yes, news that Matt Hancock will be taking part in the forthcoming I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! may have come as an initial shock, but it’s hardly a surprise. If you’re asking yourself, “Why would he want to publicly humiliate himself in that way?” then I’m afraid you must be told that you really haven’t been paying close enough attention.
At this point, the only question to ask about Matt Hancock is not whether he’s deliberately seeking to embarrass himself as much as he possibly can – but why?
After John Profumo’s very public disgrace, he spent the next 40 years of his life quietly seeking atonement through unpaid volunteer work for a community charity in the east end of London. Matt Hancock, on the available evidence, is seeking redemption through ever more perverted acts of public degradation.
That his trip to the Australian jungle has been announced the day after the announcement about his forthcoming book, The Pandemic Diaries, strongly intimates that this is mainly an exercise in self-promotion.
The problem with finally hearing Matt Hancock’s side of the story is that we have already heard so many others, many highly contradictory of each other, yet all of them appear in agreement about only one thing, and that is about the absolute lack of redeeming qualities possessed by Matt Hancock.
Kate Bingham, the vaccines tsar has defenestrated him. Dominic Cummings blames him essentially for everything. Boris Johnson called him “hopeless” – yes, Boris Johnson.
Perhaps he’s worked out that the very best way in which he can say that, actually, he was right to evacuate untested Covid patients into care homes, or why it was actually completely fine for him to be banning sex for everyone else while also shagging one of his advisers, would be to first lock himself in an underground cave with rats and punctuate the key messages with terrified screams for help.
Maybe this one, the really big humiliation, might be the one to save him. Maybe he hopes that this time he can make such a totemic tit of himself that people don’t even notice his promise to compensate for missing three weeks parliamentary time – by “making a donation” to a children’s charity in his constituency – is very deliberately not the same as saying he’ll donate his entire fee. Perhaps he’s hoping people won’t notice the most tragic aspect of it all, which is that he simply needs the money.
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But maybe, maybe this one, is the really big delusion. Matt Hancock can hardly not have noticed that he’s not the first to do this kind of thing. That George Galloway maybe did not enhance his reputation by dressing up as a cat and lapping up a saucer of milk. That Nadine Dorries has spent a full decade making a spectacular wally of herself but even that has not been entirely sufficient to stop people talking about the kangaroo testicle incident of a decade ago.
But Matt Hancock just thinks it’s going to be different for him. That he’s going to have his head submerged in a bucket of eels and come out looking like Ed Balls doing the Charleston. But he’s not going to, because he isn’t.
Sometimes, politicians can make fools of themselves and come out stronger, but the equation at work there is that old one about comedy equalling tragedy plus time. The arithmetic for Matt Hancock is going to be a lot simpler. Tragedy plus tragedy equals double tragedy. An arsehole eating an arsehole is still an arsehole.