November 2, 2022 - 11:45am

To accuse Matt Hancock of idiocy as he joins the next series of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here almost seems pointless. You may as well condemn Shakespeare for iambic pentameters.

A mere five days ago, the former Health Secretary appeared to be in the running to head up the Treasury Select Committee. Simultaneously, he was mulling over this offer from ITV to go Down Under and eat wombat genitals. Hancock made the Hancock choice. The actual humiliation of eating wombat genitals on national television, over the potential humiliation of not getting that committee job.

In this morning’s Sun, Hancock writes that his quest into the bush represents an attempt to show Britain that “politicians are human, with hopes and fears, and normal emotions like everyone else.” Putting live grasshoppers in his mouth alongside Boy George, Hancock thinks, is the only way to speak to the “politically disengaged”. Our cynicism about politics is misplaced.

Hancock’s decision does make perverse sense for completely cynical reasons. Consider the cost-benefit analysis. Cost: you’ve enriched your status as a national laughing stock. Cost: you’ve lost the Tory whip and the respect of your colleagues. Cost: you will never be able to sell yourself to a fee-paying audience as a pandemic-hardened, grandee-speaker with after dinner wisdom for sale. Cost: after previously comparing yourself to Pitt the Younger, Benjamin Disraeli and Winston Churchill, you are now following in the big boy footsteps of… Lembit Opik. But, benefit: you have a Covid book out on December 6th, mere days after I’m A Celeb finishes. A few afternoons in the jungle shares that information with 12 million nightly viewers. Bestsellerdom awaits. (Another thought: what if he actually won?)

There are claims that Hancock wants to “engage” with the public at the level of pop culture. The more revealing quote from a well-placed source: “Matt doesn’t expect to serve in government again”. Will there even be a Tory government after 2025? Hancock is likely aware that on current polling even a majority as large as his in West Suffolk may not be safe in the next election. Going on telly surrenders voters the Conservative Party has already lost.

For him, then, Hancock’s choice makes sense — even if it generates fury. Meanwhile, the rest of us live in the reality that Hancock was instrumental in creating. Millions of tweaky, mentally agonised teenagers. Over 7 million NHS patients waiting for treatment. Inflationary pressures on the economy comparable to the Suez Crisis of the Fifties, the Oil Price Shock of the Seventies, and the Global Financial Crisis in 2008. A backlog of criminal cases in the courts that stretches off into the far horizon.

None of this generates any fury at all. It’s as if the failed Nightingale hospitals, the dodgy procurement contracts, the care home deaths, the threats to ban outdoor exercise, the threats to fine people for sitting on park benches, the shoddy test and trace app, the nurses wearing bin bags, the police drones over Derbyshire, the tiers, the colour-codes, the R-numbers and the graphs never happened. Much easier to forget those nightmares, and to laugh once more, at Matt Hancock.