by Flo Read
Wednesday, 30
November 2022
Reaction
13:30

The healing humiliation of Matt Hancock

The MP's stint in the jungle was his most successful embarrassment yet
by Flo Read
A grotesque toad, with a jungle amphibian perched on his head.

With Matt Hancock’s departure from the Australian jungle in third place, his reputation (we are informed by YouGov) has been enhanced among British voters. He’s not suddenly a popular figure, but 14% of the population have a more favourable view of him now than they did before, which when you’re Matt Hancock is a welcome move in the right direction. The ritual humiliation of his stint on I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here seems to have done the trick.

Six nights a week we were treated to a carnival of social and corporeal mortification. The other contestants gleefully participated in the flogging. They hated Hancock and they didn’t hide it. Even Boy George, a man jailed for chaining an escort to a radiator, didn’t accept him: “I find him slimy, I find him slippery.” He had to shower next to a Hollyoaks hunk and wear spandex shorts beside Mike Tindall. When he wasn’t being bitten by snakes in the challenges, Hancock was being stung by a wild scorpion that had wandered into the camp. The producers hardly had to try. Every flora and fauna in that jungle was out to get him. Evidently the British public would, even in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, spend their wages on votes to torture him. Some trials were biblical (swarms of flies and plagues of rats), some visceral (vats of rotting meat and a camel’s anus) and some downright cruel (chatting to Chris Moyles).


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Not very long ago, public humiliation was used as an alternative to prison, and was considered an equally appropriate way of expiating guilt. For petty infractions like adultery or drunkenness, a spell in the stocks was deemed about right. And Hancock’s final trial was pillory, pure and simple. He was locked in wooden shackles and submerged in water. Eels wrapped around his neck. After being released he embraced Gina on the bridge. The final image recalled the original humiliation, this time caught not on CCTV but the ITV cameras. The circle was complete and the ritual was over.

It turns out we needn’t have sent Hancock all the way to Australia. A local councillor in Thame called David Bretherton looked into the records and has determined that the stocks are actually still legal — in fact every town is still required to have one. A Thame Town Council announcement from 2016 states that the “Statute of Labours [sic]” of 1405 requires “every town and village to maintain a set of stocks in which to punish vagabonds, layabouts and drunkards.” Towns found in violation of the statute would “be downgraded to a hamlet and would lose its right to hold a market or fair.”

In his 1975 book Discipline and Punish, Michel Foucault pointed out that ‘we are now far away from the country of tortures, dotted with wheels, gibbets, gallows, pillories.’ But the French philosopher, regrettably, never lived to see I’m A Celebrity. If he’d survived another 17 years and caught the inaugural 2002 season, he would have surely noted the resurgence of what he called the ‘country of tortures’. We have simply exported it to Australia, our old penal colony. Perhaps there is an argument for bringing it home.

Upon entering the jungle, Hancock said all he wanted was forgiveness. But you can’t always get what you want. Sometimes you get what you need.

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Z Zabrak
Z Zabrak
2 months ago

Stocks would of course be a very popular, appropriate and effective solution for the “Just Stop Oil” protestors, who are happy to inconvenience ordinary people and damage communal property? Pass the tomatoes please ….

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
2 months ago

I was thinking of John Profumo, publically humiliated for foolish conduct with a woman not his wife. He resigned, disappeared into private life, his name only to emerge again decades later having been honoured by the Queen after years of humble, quiet service to the poor and disadvantaged of East London.
What a contrast with Hancock’s shameless conduct in taking huge amounts of cash to trash himself for public delectation while promoting his ‘book’. Oh and Profumo didn’t help wreck the economy or sentence thousands to death in a vain and destructive attempt to ‘save the NHS’. I despair that any section of the British people should reward this narcissist with its attention.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin Smith

Very well said

Andrew D
Andrew D
2 months ago

Didn’t watch the programme, too moronic, sadistic and cruel. The same can’t be said of the stocks, if properly supervised (squashed tomatoes, for example, should first be removed from their tins). There’s much to be commended in a spectacle which provides public humiliation for transgressors while serving as a harmless outlet for righteous public anger. Delighted to hear they’re still an option – will be writing to my parish council.

Tom Watson
Tom Watson
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Removed from their tins? Bloody liberals ruin everything.

Thomas Wagner
Thomas Wagner
2 months ago
Reply to  Tom Watson

Remove from tins after throwing, then reuse. Everybody happy.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
2 months ago

Could we ritually put his head on a pike instead?

R Wright
R Wright
2 months ago

“In his 1975 book Discipline and Punish, Michel Foucault pointed out that ‘we are now far away from the country of tortures, dotted with wheels, gibbets, gallows, pillorie”
The same Foucault who allegedly sexually abused prepubescent boys in a Tunisian graveyard in 1968?

Last edited 2 months ago by R Wright
Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 months ago

I watched the show, as I do every year because it does provide interesting insights into the human condition.

This year was special, as we saw convicted criminal celebrities (yes, plural) in the jungle castigate a man for doing his job, with no sign of any self awareness of their hypocrisy. They actually treated him at the start as if he was some kind of leper – real ‘never kissed a Tory’ types, and proud of their political bigotry. It was some time before these supposedly intelligent luvvies realised that Hancock is a human being, flaws and all.

The conversations revealed that they didn’t even understand how a politician operates in cabinet government, with their views informed and guided by civil service or special advisers who are ‘experts’. I was pleased he beat the sanctimonious narrow minded bullies in the jungle voting – much better than how the Tories will do at the next election.

Andrew Barker
Andrew Barker
2 months ago

It is of no importance the man’s ability to eat offal, undertake minor physical challenges or even suffer the huge emotional toil of being questioned politely about his poor political judgements.
He is just another well paid narcissistic person of little relevance, only to those who wish to spectate rather bring down any political party so adrift and uncaring about a population they are supposed to care for.