By Sam Blewett, PA Deputy Political Editor
Former UK health secretary Matt Hancock will return to face angry colleagues, constituents and questions about his political future in Westminster after coming third in reality show I’m A Celebrity.
The British lawmaker 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 has seen him suspended from the Conservative parliamentary party and criticised by colleagues including Rishi Sunak.
— I'm A Celebrity... (@imacelebrity) November 27, 2022
The British prime minister said he was “very disappointed” in his colleague’s decision to leave behind his constituents to appear on the reality show more than 10,000 miles away.
Campaigners from the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group have also criticised his appearance, for a fee of reportedly as much as £400,000 (€460,000).
With the Conservative whip removed, there are questions over whether the currently Independent MP will be able to run again for parliament.
Mr Hancock recognised his appearance on the show was “controversial” during an interview with presenters Ant and Dec.
“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.”
He stressed: “We are normal people.”
Mr Hancock 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.
Tory MPs have been given until December 5th to decide whether they want to stand again, after which the party may choose a new candidate for his safe seat.
“Matt has no intention of standing down,” an ally of Mr Hancock told the PA news agency.
But many Conservative colleagues have been embarrassed and outraged by Mr Hancock’s decision to enter the jungle while parliament is sitting.
UK transport secretary Mark Harper told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “I don’t think serving members of Parliament should be taking place in reality television programmes.
“However well they do on them I still think they should be doing the job for which they are paid a good salary which is representing their constituents.”
As a former chief whip in charge of party discipline, Mr Harper said the decision to readmit Mr Hancock – or not – will be for successor Simon Hart.
Former Cabinet minister Theresa Villiers, however, 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.
He also faces possible punishment from the Cabinet Office after being found to have broken the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments rules on post-ministerial jobs.
Mr Hancock’s 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.