'I'm a Celeb': The Shameless Cringe of Matt Hancock

And the bookies currently have him at 5/1 to win, too.
Lauren O'Neill
London, GB
I'm a Celebrity contestant Matt Hancock next to scorpions
Collage by Cathryn Virginiahotos courtesy of ITV and Getty Images

When asked by journalist and TV presenter Charlene White what the fuck had possessed him to join her and nine other famous people in the line-up for this year’s I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here, the sitting MP and disgraced former Health Secretary Matt Hancock answered in what I am sure he thought was an earnest sort of way. 


“There’s so few ways in which politicians can show they’re human beings,” Hancock – instrumental in the deaths of over 100,000, and now somehow here, wearing an ITV-issue gilet with his name and the number of a voting phone line on the back – said. So it follows, of course, that in keeping with the risible manner of a person who clearly believes the public to be completely stupid, Hancock has chosen to show that he is a human being by eating cow anus next to Boy George on the television. 

He is self-flagellating! He is in the stocks for us! And he’d like to show that actually, he’s a bloody alright bloke! Should other lucrative television offers come afterwards – a winsome, fish-out-of-water travel show? A go at hosting Have I Got News For You? Just spitballing! – then, well, that would simply be a coincidence.  

The problem with Hancock’s thought process is that in order to be a reality star of any stripe, you have to be charming or at least somewhat eccentric. Matt Hancock, a human rice pudding skin who said “Quite a mix, really!” when asked by Seann Walsh who his favourite band was (he then quickly decided on Ed Sheeran: “Love him, yeah”), is neither. 

He’s avoidant about political questions, and his best moment onscreen didn’t even have anything to do with him (if you want to know, it was when he entered the camp and, in full view of him, Eileen off Corrie rolled her eyes at him). As the I’m a Celeb… evictions begin this week, then, you’d think that Hancock surely can’t be long for the jungle – though the bookies currently have him at 5/1 to win, which means people are either having a field day sticking on a banter fiver, or we really are a scum nation of bootlickers. 


While his attempt at I’m a Celeb… betrays a bizarrely inflated level of self-confidence, and the precise inverse amount of self-awareness, however, there has been a method in Hancock’s madness. In doing the show, he of course joins a truly rotted tradition of UK politicians going on reality TV.

Results have been varied. In 2006 there was George Galloway bringing shame on the name of cats everywhere as he pretended to eat imaginary Whiskas out of the hands of Rula Lenska on Celebrity Big Brother. Later, in 2010, Ann Widdecombe got thrashed about like a sort of anti-choice feather duster by Anton Du Beke on Strictly (she also famously used hair straighteners incredibly weirdly during a CBB stint in 2018, launching a thousand “me trying to light a cig in the smoking area at 5AM” memes); in 2016, former Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Ed Balls did the same show, on which he performed a salsa to “Gangnam Style” (Balls, having adopted a sort of pissed-up but knowledgeable uncle persona, is now all but a TV regular). 

Elsewhere, many current or former MPs from across the political spectrum, from Edwina Currie to Nadine Dorries via Lembit Opik (a man whose greatest achievement, in fairness, is not being the Lib Dem MP for the Welsh constituency of Montgomeryshire from 1997 until 2010, but rather marrying Gabriela “Cheeky Girl” Irimia) have blazed the I’m a Celeb trail that Hancock is now foolishly attempting to walk. Penny Mordaunt did Splash!, for fuck’s sake.


So it is not that what Matt Hancock has done is especially unusual: We are used to seeing politicians debasing themselves in public, and in fact the spinelessness they display in their day jobs is frequently more embarrassing than any Masked Singer appearance ever could be. The difference, as everyone knows, is that while the other MPs I’ve mentioned have tended to just be vaguely resented by the public prior to their time on reality telly, Hancock was essentially the face of the darkest periods of the UK’s history in his time as health secretary. 

That he was eventually ousted not over allegedly handing out lucrative PPE contracts to his friends, or even over his complete mishandling of the NHS at the time of its greatest crisis, but for getting caught on CCTV snogging the wife of Mr Oliver Bonas like he was eight sherries deep at the world’s bleakest office do, simply adds insult to public injury. If I had been involved in any one of these things I would never leave my house again (the COVID stuff for reasons of being a normal person with a moral conscience; the snogging stuff just because it was soooo cringe), but Matt Hancock has flown to Australia to have buckets of cockroaches dumped on him and be openly mocked by Ant and Dec because he thinks it might get him a regular slot on The Wheel.

That the public have had their fun with him, at least, is a small mercy. We have seen him squealing, covered in gunge, eating a camel’s penis, and at one point, literally emerging from a mole hole. It is, fundamentally, funny to see him do these things. Whether they’re worth the rehabilitation they could afford one of the most shameless men in the country, if the bookies’ odds are right, however, is another thing entirely.