HEADLINES were made this week by the announcement that former health minister Matt Hancock is to appear on the 22nd series of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Here.

We should all remember that Hancock hasn’t got a necessarily good track record with hidden cameras, given that he was caught winching with his former aide Gina Coladangelo in his office in 2021. Yep, that video is ingrained into my memory, and if I must accidentally remember it, then you do too. Cue collective groan.

Let’s be clear – the word celebrity is doing some extremely heavy lifting here. The idea of Matt Hancock cutting about the jungle with the classic red gilet (emblazoned with a voting telephone number) and utility trousers gives me the ick for so many reasons, but the overarching issue is that he is still a sitting MP.

Over the last couple of days, many news outlets have been quick to publish articles about “ex-politicians who have appeared on reality TV shows”, but many of these articles have failed to pull Matt Hancock up on the fact that he is very much still a sitting MP.

It is a total privilege to be elected to represent your constituency, and Hancock’s willingness to jet off to Australia to eat kangaroo baws is a slap in the face to everyone who elected him.

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Just like Nadine Dorries when she went on I’m A Celeb in 2012, Hancock has had the Conservative whip removed. I suspect this is only a face-saving temporary measure – Dorries had the whip restored and then went on to become a Cabinet minister.

When Penny Mordaunt took part in Tom Daley’s show Splash, she managed to avoid having the whip removed by claiming that her involvement in the show would be of benefit to her local lido in Portsmouth. The Tories really have no shame whatsoever.

After rightfully receiving backlash to the announcement, Hancock doubled down on his decision, claiming the show is a “powerful tool” to reach young viewers and that politicians must “go where the people are”. And he’s right enough about the power of reality TV.

Back in 2020, when I’m A Celebrity was filmed in Wales, it amassed a peak of 12 million viewers in total and drew its largest ever share of 16-34 viewers with 77%, attracting a daily average of 2.7m viewers. This was at the height of winter, during the pandemic when the public had very little else to do and was looking for an escape from the everyday Covid doom and gloom.

For me, that’s what reality TV is – escapism. I don’t want to tune into my form of escapism only for it to be marred by the presence of one of the most unlikeable Tory politicians.

Despite his absence from Parliament and his constituency, Hancock will continue to “serve” West Suffolk as an independent MP and draw his £84,144 salary plus expenses. It seems that he was not Mr Popular to begin with.

When Rishi Sunak was installed as Prime Minister, I couldn’t help but laugh when footage emerged of him patching Hancock for a hug and avoiding shaking hands with the former health secretary.

In recent days, his colleagues have not bitten their tongue in making their views on Hancock known, with Tory MP Tim Loughton calling him for what he is – an “absolute prat”.

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I feel like Hancock has almost accepted the possibility of political obscurity post-jungle, knowing fine well that his Tory colleagues as well as constituents are not impressed with him.

Just this week, he ducked out of the running to chair the Treasury select committee and also dropped the title of his new book, Pandemic Diaries, written about his time as health secretary during Covid.

I’m sure that book will tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It’s quite disappointing that Tory politicians can relinquish all control in order to make money by punting a book and appearing on a reality TV show. Where is the accountability?

With breaking lockdown rules, PPE contract scandals, VIP lanes for his friends, presiding over the UK having one of the highest death tolls in the world from Covid-19, and a stack of interviews which have proven Hancock to be a complete liability, I don’t believe that he should have the chance to position himself as a likeable, personable, character on TV each night in front of millions.

To make matters worse, this isn’t the only TV show Hancock will appear in. He is set to appear on the Channel 4 show SAS: Who Dares Wins, where “celebrities” (heavy lifting again) take part in intensive military training. I don’t know what’s worse – seeing Hancock break a sweat on SAS or seeing him potentially take an outdoor shower in the jungle.

The Independent reported that Hancock will be paid a fee of £400,000 to appear on I’m A Celebrity. A spokesperson for Matt claimed that he would be donating part of the fee to St Nicholas Hospice in Suffolk as well as charities that support dyslexia. But how much will really be donated?

Back in 2017, when Kezia Dugdale appeared on the show, she revealed that out of the £70,000 fee from ITV, she donated a measly £5100 to charity along with £2500 of her MSPs salary to charity.

Elsewhere in the realm of reality TV this week, Kelly Given from Burntisland became the runner-up on Channel 4’s first season of Make Me A Prime Minister. I really hope there will be a second run. The show is one of the “reality” TV shows I can stomach.

The snappy and engaging Apprentice-style programme format allows viewers to engage with politics and current affairs. Throughout the entire series, I was consistently impressed with two contestants – Danny Price and Kelly.

While the show’s premise was great, I felt like Kelly’s own leanings and opinions were swept under the rug, whilst other contestants’ views were made very clear within the first episode.

For example, 20-year-old Oxford student Alice Grant described herself as a “Brexiteer” and “socially very conservative”, citing Margaret Thatcher as one of her political idols. Kelly’s views were only shared several episodes later when the package cut to a photo of her speaking at SNP conference.

It almost felt like the Brexiteer could be out and proud, but Kelly’s support of Scottish independence was kept as some sort of dirty secret. Nevertheless, she is an incredibly impressive woman and I feel like she was robbed of winning the top spot – being the only contestant to win each and every weekly challenge.

In one episode, contestants were tested in mock interviews with Channel 4’s Krishnan Guru-Murthy and LBC’s Nick Ferrari. When watching Kelly’s interview, Alastair Campbell exclaimed: “If somebody landed from Mars now and watched this, they’d think she was a politician.” And I screamed “gaun yersel quine!” at the TV.

So, if I’m a fan of Make Me A Prime Minister, what is it with sitting politicians and reality TV that makes me cringe so much?

The fact that politicians who have a deplorable track record in government tend to try their hardest to go on the charm offensive with the public and try to position themselves as a personable real human that everyday people can connect with.

That being said, one Tory politician who has managed to have a successful broadcasting career is former shadow chancellor, Michael Portillo.

Speaking from personal experience, whilst filming for Great Railway Journeys, Portillo was well-researched and extremely attentive, charming, and kind both on and off filming.

Emailing me in the days after, thanking me for my contribution, he stated that my songs were delightful and that he believes my music will be “successful in demonstrating that Scots can be a cool language for young Scottish people to speak and sing in”.

I can’t imagine this from the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg, who called Scots a “foreign language” during a 2021 Commons debate.

Long gone are the days when a senior Conservative could swap the Commons for the cameras. Politics has become so polarising that it is near impossible to imagine a senior figure having a successful career in TV post-politics. Imagine the nick of Dougie Ross’s Great Railway Journeys?

Joking aside, the constituents of West Suffolk deserve better representation in Parliament than a wannabe celebrity whose only interest is punting their new book. Hopefully, the public will vote with their feet in the next election.