Matt Hancock has insisted “I haven’t lost my marbles” by deciding to join I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here after being suspended from the parliamentary Conservative Party.
The West Suffolk MP insisted his “first priority” is to his constituents as he flew over 10,000 miles to join the show, which starts on Sunday.
Mr Hancock also defended his decision, arguing it is “a great opportunity to talk directly to people who aren’t always interested in politics”.
He said reality TV is an “honest and unfiltered” way to communicate with voters.
Matt Hancock Beresford Hodge
“It’s our job as politicians to go to where the people are — not to sit in ivory towers in Westminster,” Mr Hancock wrote.
“There are many ways to do the job of being an MP. Whether I’m in camp for one day or three weeks, there are very few places people will be able to see a politician as they really are.”
He added to The Sun: “So, the truth is, I haven’t lost my marbles or had one too many pina coladas. It’s something I’ve given a lot of thought to.”
Mr Hancock said he wants to use the “incredible platform” to raise awareness of dyslexia.
He said he turned down the programme “twice this summer” but had a “change of heart” after workers asked a third time last week.
The MP said it was not the money that changed his mind, saying he will make “a donation” to St Nicholas Hospice Care in Suffolk, though he does not say he will give up the full amount.
He said he feels able to go to the jungle now the “Government is stable”.
Mr Hancock argued it is “a great opportunity to talk directly to people who aren’t always interested in politics” Yui Mok
Mr Hancock said he can be reached on “any urgent constituency matters”.
The former health secretary is facing growing criticism after confirming his appearance on the TV show.
One Tory MP described Mr Hancock as an “absolute prat” as campaigners for families bereaved in the Covid-19 pandemic accused him of trying to “cash in on his terrible legacy”.
Chief whip Simon Hart said: “Following a conversation with Matt Hancock, I have considered the situation and believe this is a matter serious enough to warrant suspension of the whip with immediate effect.”
In Mr Hancock’s constituency, Andy Drummond, deputy chairman (political) of the West Suffolk Conservative Association, said: “I’m looking forward to him eating a kangaroo’s penis. Quote me. You can quote me on that.”
Ian Houlder, a Conservative councillor on West Suffolk Council, said Mr Hancock has “no shame”.
“Everybody knows what he did during the Covid pandemic and he seems to want to rehabilitate himself all the time in the public eye,” he said.
“He’s got a skin as thick as a rhinoceros, quite frankly.”