By Alex Green, PA Acting Deputy Entertainment Editor
Matt Hancock has said he did not feel “bullied” by his campmates on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! after he faced a grilling over his behaviour during the pandemic.
The former UK health secretary, 44, was questioned by his fellow contestants on the ITV reality show, including Culture Club frontman Boy George and ITV broadcaster Charlene White, following his arrival in the Australian jungle.
In an interview with Mail+ published following his return to the UK, he said the group’s view of him had “softened over time”.
More than 1,000 complaints were made to broadcasting watchdog Ofcom over his participation in the show, while others expressed concerns to the body about how he was being treated by the other contestants.
He said: “I didn’t feel bullied at all in the jungle.
“I formed an extraordinary bond with Seann Walsh in a short period of time, and then it took a few days to work through and develop relationships with the rest of the campmates.
“Whatever he says about me, I think Boy George is wonderful and I did not expect to say that about him because we have very different backgrounds, to say the least.
“It took us a few days, but we had, what I would call, grown-up, respectful discussions.
“Some of them, I could tell, didn’t take to me straightaway but it softened over time. Being in the jungle also gives you lots of time to think about what really matters. I thought about how much I care for the people I really love.”
Hancock has faced criticism from opposition politicians and from within his own party for joining the show, with the Tory whip suspended.
He said that each day the public voted for him to remain he was “really pleased” but missed his children “desperately” and felt “guilty” about being away from his partner Gina Coladangelo, with whom he conducted an affair breaking coronavirus social distancing rules.
He added: “I knew it was a risk the whip would be suspended – after all that is the precedent (when Tory MP Nadine Dorries went into the jungle) – but I didn’t expect it and went out of my way to go and see the Chief Whip before coming here.
“I haven’t seen everything Rishi said, but I do agree that public service is a noble profession.
“I think it’s vital MPs connect with the electorate, including the large swathes of people — especially younger people — who don’t connect through the traditional political media.”