“I’ve got like 20 years of answering the question I want to answer, not the one that is given”Tim Hammond/No.10 Downing Street

Matt Hancock had to get this right. His seat, his constituency, and whatever’s left of his reputation have been put on the line for him to appear on I’m a Celebrity in a bid to show the ‘human side’ of the “man behind the podium”.

His career has been tarnished by his handling of the COVID pandemic, marked by a string of failures and scandals. The anger directed at him comes from across the political spectrum – from those who lost elderly relatives in care homes, to those still angry about the lockdown itself.

He’s been left without a job in the cabinet, after a video leaked of him kissing his aide, Gina Coladangelo in his office, breaking the very social distancing rules he, himself had introduced. Arguably, we’ve seen far too much of his human side already. I don’t know how much more of the “man behind the podium” I can take.

Yet, the closest we’ve come to the ‘honest’ version of Matt Hancock on ‘I’m a Celebrity’ wasn’t his confession that he had fallen madly in love with his aide, nor was it his rendition of ‘Perfect’ by Ed Sheeran. It was in episode four, when his fellow campmate, Seann Walsh asked him how politicians seemed to stay calm in interviews.

The camp was captivated. Hancock revelled as he explained to the other contestants the art of the political “pivot”. The key is “practice and prep”, he said. His eyes shone with delight, as he bragged about how “I’ve got like 20 years of answering the question I want to answer, not the one that is given”.

Hancock has yet to let go of his techniques. He looked practiced and prepared for life in the jungle, drip-feeding us a rehearsed, tightly packaged ‘human side’, bolstered by fake laughs and contemporary pop references.

In episode one, he got his first chance to deliver his script, as he lamented that there were “so few ways in which politicians can show that we are human beings.” By the end of the third episode, he’d ramped up his performance, confessing how “I messed up and I fessed up. I resigned and it’s not excuse but I fell in love, right?”.

A part of me feels sorry for him. He can’t help but turn to his trusty ‘pivot technique’ that’s carried him through his political career. These techniques might well have worked for him in Westminster, but they won’t show his human side - if he has one.

Politicians can show their ‘human side’, but it requires letting go of the rehearsed, ‘practice and prep’ method of answering questions

Politicians can show their ‘human side’, but it requires letting go of the rehearsed, ‘practice and prep’ method of answering questions. It requires genuine honesty and authenticity, which cannot be packaged up by a PR team and delivered systematically on a reality TV show. What it doesn’t require is forcing down a camel’s penis and a cow’s anus like Hancock did the other night, nor the rumoured £400,000 for that matter.

More than this, Hancock seems to think he’s doing something revolutionary, putting his airs and graces to one side and bravely forsaking the “ivory towers of Westminster” to go to “where the people are”. He says wants to use the opportunity to communicate with the electorate in an “honest and unfiltered” manner.


Mountain View

Beware the daughters of Thatcher and hair bleach

Not only is it patronising, but what he seems to have forgotten, is that communicating honestly with the public is, in fact, his job. This is what hard-working MPs up and down the country do every day for a living. Remarkably, he’s only just clocked what he was meant to be doing for the past twelve years.

Most bizarrely of all, he thought ‘I’m a Celebrity’ would be the best place for it. I can’t speak for Matt, but ‘honest’ and ‘unfiltered’ aren’t the first two words that spring to mind when I think of reality TV.

Politicians don’t need to be doing gruesome challenges on the other side of the globe to show their human side. Showing humanity and authenticity doesn’t need to be at odds with a political career either. In fact, it should be part of the basic job description. For instance, Mark Drakeford made headlines last month for his confrontation with Andrew RT Davies, the leader of the Welsh Conservatives. A video of him went viral as he was nearly moved to tears in his defence of the NHS.

But acts of humanity don’t always need to go viral to have an impact. Politicians can show their human side through their politics – holding surgeries in their constituencies, listening to the public and by showing compassion in times of need.

Annoyingly, and perhaps predictably, he turned out to be quite good at the Celebrity Jungle life, gamely winning stars for the camp and the hearts and minds of many camp mates and viewers. It’s worth noting that the ultimate winner, Jill Scott, was refreshingly normal, human, down to earth. No pivots required. Just completely and comfortably herself.