Voices: Tonight’s the night – the Matt Hancock revelation you’ve been waiting for

Tonight’s the night. The revelation you’ve been waiting for. The point of maximum amusement. Tonight, on free to view TV, you’ll be able witness the very moment at which disgraced former health secretary and Covid recovery leader Matt Hancock realises he’s made a grave miscalculation.

He has decided that the best way to recover his reputation is to enter The Jungle – and he’s about to find out that everyone is watching to confirm the opposite.

The edits to tonight’s edition of I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here might be so erratic that blink and you’ll miss it. But there will be a giveaway – a flicker of the eyelids, perhaps; a small gasp, or a turn down of the lip – that shows the penny has descended.

Hancock is not the first to have conflated popularity with opportunity. The format of this particular show is so well loved that it’s had an annual outing for over two decades, even recording in the UK during the pandemic years. But just having a large number of people watching you isn’t sufficient to generate a fanbase.

Hancock believes that he can evolve his public image. He goes in the weasely back-slapper of an allegedly corrupt prime minister, the orchestrator of a pandemic response programme that made so many mistakes and led to the deaths of so many citizens that it is facing a long-running public inquiry, and a philanderer too.

I imagine he thinks he can come out a sort of rehabilitated tragic hero, an ordinary, relatable man whose career was sidelined by the twin forces of the great tide of human history – who could possibly have been prepared for masterminding the response to a global pandemic? – and the intoxicating power of love.

He says he wants us to see the “human side of the guy behind the podium”. But we all saw quite enough of that last year, his locked lips splashed all over the tabloid front pages.

Sadly for him – but happily for us – Hancock has got this upside down. The great joy in I’m A Celebrity is not the personal insight into the minds, lives and motivations of C-list celebs, but the opposite. We don’t tune in to watch the human but to watch the hubris; specifically, to watch the hubris collapse.

The national opinion on celebrities in the jungle never changes for the better. There are those we like, and for whom further exposure only cements that positive relationship. Scarlett Moffatt was treasured long before she stepped foot off the plane at Sydney airport. She, wisely, realised the more people got to know about her the more they would find to love. She gave us more of the same.

Then there are those we think we like, but when given more airtime we decide are nothing like their public facade. These are the disappointments. The process doesn’t go well for them either.

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I cannot think of a single example of a celebrity who has gone into the show disliked and come out as a hero. Why Hancock thinks he can possibly achieve this, without any of the fabulousness and sparkle of show business to rely on, is inexplicable.

Clearly, there’s another contestant this year who hopes to undergo the same transfiguration. Also understood to be entering the camp tonight is the comedian Seann Walsh, accused by his former partner, actor Rebecca Humphries, of emotional abuse and gaslighting throughout their five-year relationship. She’s even written a book – Why Did You Stay? –about the experience. In 2019, Walsh admitted to abusive behaviour towards Humphries, saying: “If you lie and cheat on the person that you’re meant to care for and be in a relationship with, then that is a form of abuse.”

It’s fascinating to watch these two fallen individuals using such a grotesque platform to appeal for mercy from the viewing public. Hancock in particular is about to find out that the British people are not ready to forgive him for his part in the failure of the coronavirus response.

He hopes for a resurrection by Christmas. His career is about to be buried under the weight of public grief.