by Will Lloyd
Wednesday, 2
November 2022
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11:45

Why Matt Hancock’s latest career move makes sense

Reality TV is a logical destination for him
by Will Lloyd

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.

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Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
25 days ago

When I read “a backlog of criminal cases” I was hoping they were going to be against Hancock. Unfortunately not……..yet.
At least he has now proved the Peter Principle, by reaching his true level of competence while leaving a trail of destruction in his wake.
I hope he chokes on the wombat testicles.

Last edited 25 days ago by Rocky Martiano
Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
25 days ago

What else is a disposable clinical apron but a bin liner with an inflated price tag?

Sam Hill
Sam Hill
25 days ago

Much easier to forget those nightmares, and to laugh once more, at Matt Hancock.’
Yes…but isn’t there a rather less flippant point to be made about how political figures have started to use reality TV as a personal tool to, if not sanitise, then to reinvent themselves to some extent?
It’s not just I’m a Celebrity…, in the US we saw politicians appear on the US version of Come Dancing. Alan Johnson was on The Masked Singer.
It’s as if appearing on reality TV does indeed act to engage politicans on a pop culture level and simultaneously scrub the past. Hancock might just be a ghastly example but he’s not alone. Far from it.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
25 days ago

Good article. Says it all. Thank you

Claire D
Claire D
24 days ago

Liz Truss on next year’s Strictly Come Dancing, anyone up for a bet ?

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
24 days ago

Yeah it was all Hancock’s fault for absolutely everything covid related. As the nexus of evil he probably spawned the virus too.

He’s hated by millions whipped up by the media, like this article (which is beneath Unherd, unless it actually analysed the man); so going on the jungle programme is a lovely “**** you!” to the world. I like that.

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
24 days ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Nothing in the article suggests he’s evil (although you could make a case for the dodgy procurement contracts). He’d probably make a decent mid-level civil servant, but the man was totally out of his depth as the key government minister fighting a health crisis. Evil, probably not; incompetent undoubtedly.