Issue: Can a disgraced MP rejuvenate their career by ignoring their job and hanging out in a jungle with Z-list ‘celebrities’?
Matt Hancock – a.k.a. the Health Secretary during Covid-19 before resigning in disgrace for breaching social-distancing rules by snogging his tax-payer funded aide (who was notably not his wife) – launched an attempted career comeback this month by appearing on ‘I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here’. Hancock’s decision prompted the removal of the Tory whip, casting further doubts on his already-dim political prospects. Promising to use the attention to raise awareness of dyslexia, Hancock ended up finishing third in the contest, losing out to the eventual winner, footballer Jill Scott. Batting away accusations he was in it just for the PR, Hancock said he was just trying to ‘be himself’ (read: hire me, please, anyone).
Hancock’s ‘line to take’
“I wanted to show what I’m like as a person.”
In one sense, Hancock’s line does exactly what it says on the tin. Hancock did, indeed, show what he was like as a person: slightly dorky, mostly earnest, and eager to be liked. And you know what? You can’t help but…like him. And likeability is a marketable skill these days, especially in TV-land.
As with any line, the intended audience is the only one who’s opinion truly matters. Hancock’s entire time in the jungle was marked by snide commentary from the Westminster lobby, most of whom ended up watching every second in spite of themselves. But they aren’t (and were never) the intended audience. Hancock was auditioning to be a public personality, not the champion of dyslexia (total jungle mentions: 3), and so his sole audience was the cohort of people who commission television programmes.
Hancock knows his political future is toast – for his past transgressions, if not for Liz Truss’ subsequent cannonball through the floor of Tory electability – and so appearing on a schlocky reality TV series is as good an outlet for an ambitious personality as any. As a former Culture Secretary, Hancock also knows the UK remains a market leader for schlocky television and therefore sees it as a vein to be tapped, something he’s already done to the tune of £400k for his appearance in the jungle.
In summary, laugh all you want, but we reckon you’ll be getting a lot more Hancock in your life over the coming months and years.
Does the job