Matt Hancock has “no intention of standing down” from politics, his spokesperson has said, as he faces questions about his future following his stint on ITV’s I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!
The former health secretary has denied reports he has been in talks with a top publicist about pursuing a career in showbiz after coming third on the reality TV show.
Mr Hancock surpassed the expectations of many by reaching the final but came behind the winner, Euro 2022 champion Jill Scott, and Hollyoaks actor Owen Warner in a public vote on Sunday night.
His 18 days in the Australian jungle while parliament is sitting has seen him suspended from the Conservative parliamentary party and criticised by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Tory colleagues and COVID campaigners.
The Sun newspaper reported that “secret talks” had been held to get Mr Hancock out of politics and into showbiz.
But his spokesperson denied this, telling Sky News: “Matt has no intention of standing down or stepping away from politics and there has been no conversation with Mayah Riaz or any other PR.”
However, with the Conservative whip removed, there are questions over whether the current Independent MP will be able to run again for parliament.
Tory MPs have been given until 5 December to decide whether they want to stand again, after which the party may choose a new candidate for his safe seat.
Many Conservative colleagues have been embarrassed and outraged by Mr Hancock’s decision to leave behind his constituents and enter the jungle more than 10,000 miles away.
Asked if Mr Hancock should get the whip back, Business Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News this morning: “I don’t think he should have gone to the jungle in the first place.
“It’s often said politics is all show business for ugly people. He should be back here with us ugly people in parliament doing the job for his constituents.”
Speaking later on the broadcast round, Mr Shapps told Times Radio that Mr Hancock may have “come to the conclusion that his parliamentary career is pretty much done”.
“Why would you go off and spend all that time in the jungle if you were going to carry on in parliament? I’m only speculating,” he said.
The decision to readmit Mr Hancock – or not – will be for chief whip Simon Hart, who is in charge of party discipline.
Mr Hancock recognised his appearance on the show was “controversial” during an exit interview with presenters Ant and Dec last night.
“I know that it was controversial me coming here, I know some people said people in your position shouldn’t put themselves in embarrassing situations,” the MP said.
“But we’re all human and we all put ourselves in it.”
Mr Hancock also praised his campmates for behaving in a “really grown-up way” during “grillings” over his time in office.
After leaving the interview, he hugged partner Gina Coladangelo, the former aide with whom he had the affair that forced his resignation as health secretary in June last year.
Leaked CCTV showed them kissing in Mr Hancock’s ministerial office in breach of his own social distancing rules imposed to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Hancock conceded he wasn’t proud of his actions while on the show, but when questioned by campmates, insisted it was because he “fell in love”.
Former cabinet minister Theresa Villiers was among Mr Hancock’s fans, saying the “great human being” has “shown incredible resilience and bravery”.
Mr Hancock is expected to face his constituents when he fulfils his promise to hold surgeries with them on his return.
He had insisted they were his “first priority” when entering the jungle, claiming the reality TV show would be an “honest and unfiltered” way to communicate with voters.
Mr Hancock said he would use the “incredible platform” to raise awareness of dyslexia.
His team said he will make a donation from his appearance fee to St Nicholas Hospice in Suffolk and he will be required to declare the amount he receives from the show to parliament.