Proper now, many members of the British public are casting their minds again to the haze of the early pandemic. As soon as once more, former Well being Secretary Matt Hancock dances throughout their tv screens. The MP served within the governments of David Cameron, Theresa Might and Boris Johnson earlier than his unceremonious resignation from the cupboard in 2021. Alongside broadcaster Charlene White, comic Seann Walsh and singer Boy George, he’s one among twelve contestants on the present collection of the hit ITV actuality present I am a Superstar…Get Me Out of Right here! For a few years, the casting for the present has been met with jokes about who truly qualifies as a celeb, but the choice to incorporate one of many main politicians of the Johnson period is among the most controversial within the collection’ historical past.
Surprisingly for a lot of, ITV just isn’t breaking new floor right here – politicians have been tied up in British actuality tv for so long as it has been airing, and has often resulted in unfavourable responses from most people and political class. Whether or not it is two-time Conservative management candidate Penny Mordaunt showing on the short-lived ITV diving competitors Splash! in 2014 or ex-Labour MP George Galloway’s feline antics on Superstar Huge Brother In 2006, political legacies are by no means bolstered by taking a spin on the tracks of actuality TV. Most frequently, we see a complete automobile crash. We should wait to see how Hancock’s legacy fares within the jungle, however he’s removed from the primary notable political determine to enter the realm of late-night actuality viewing.
What’s completely different, although, is the size of Matt Hancock’s fame because of the pandemic. The scandal surrounding his breaching his personal guidelines to have an affair nonetheless very a lot exists in public reminiscence. Actuality tv is interesting as a result of folks can sit again and luxuriate in inconsequential leisure with out having to consider the stresses of the surface world. But, casting a disgraced ex-cabinet minister in one of the vital fashionable TV exhibits in Britain appears to disrupt that.
Whereas some might enjoyment of seeing Hancock squirm as he’s compelled to eat an array of vomit-inducing delicacies, many others object to seeing a disgraced public determine on their screens each night time. Tv regulator Ofcom obtained simply in need of 2,000 complaints associated to Hancock’s look on I am a Superstar just a few days into the brand new collection. In response to those complaints, they wrote on their web site that “underneath our guidelines, in precept… there is no ban on any specific particular person participating in programmes. Nevertheless, if the mere presence of an individual is prone to trigger offense, we might count on broadcasters to take steps to mitigate or justify that offense. How they do this editorially is as much as them.”
Hancock, an MP since 2010, was suspended from the Conservative Social gathering for his involvement with the present and now sits as an unbiased. That is hardly a punishment, although, provided that he can return to his job after leaving the present and can stay within the position no less than till the subsequent election. We can not uphold accountability when the particular person being held to account is an elected official, and there’s no election in sight.
However what of the legacy of politics and actuality TV being intertwined? exhibits like I am a Superstar and Strictly Come Dancing have included a variety of figures throughout political events, from Boris Johnson’s father Stanley to Labor ministers Alan Johnson and Ed Balls in addition to Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Öpik. For many who made appearances after their time in Parliament was executed it was seen as extra of a innocent piggyback off of their notoriety however the public keep in mind political gaffes lengthy after they came about. When Edwina Currie entered the jungle in 2014 she was remembered as “Eggwina”, the junior well being minister who triggered a speedy decline within the gross sales of British eggs with one misinformed remark about salmonella. Ann Widdecombe left the Superstar Huge Brother home as reviled as she was when she entered, and her antics helped drag queen Courtney Act, who didn’t hesitate to problem Ann’s views on quite a few events, win the collection over her within the finals.
For many who traded their commitments in Westminster for a test from a manufacturing firm, the condemnation is understandably harsher. Till Matt Hancock returns from the jungle the folks of his West Suffolk structure haven’t any illustration in Parliament. Provided that it’s also well-known that eradicated contestants spend the rest of the competitors in a five-star resort, it will not look good for a public servant to be residing within the lap of luxurious on ITV’s dime in the midst of a price of residing crises. Even when the general public reviles him sufficient to vote him out early on, he is positive to have an pleasurable keep. Nadine Dorries had the Conservative whip suspended for showing on I am a Superstar in 2012 however had it restored lower than a yr later and rose to turn out to be a distinguished member of Johnson’s cupboard. These short-term punishments not often stop a politician from rising excessive after dipping their toe into actuality TV.
A frequent tactic utilized by these politicians to justify their excursions from Parliament is to lift consciousness for necessary points. Penny Mordaunt break up her hers £10,000 Splash! look charge between a constituency renovation venture and 4 armed forces charities. In 2012, George Galloway boasted that his time he was on Superstar Huge Brother Helped elevate “tens of 1000’s of kilos” for Interpal, a Palestinian aid charity. Hancock is the newest follower of this line of pondering, arguing that he went into the jungle to lift consciousness for his dyslexia marketing campaign. Nevertheless, many have acknowledged that he hasn’t spent a lot time speaking about dyslexia to date. Would his marketing campaign by him not be higher served by his work by him in Parliament the place his advocacy by him may drive real change – or no less than, maybe it may have pushed change earlier than he was suspended from his personal occasion?
The Covid-19 Bereaved Households for Justice group has been significantly vocal in its opposition to Hancock’s stint within the jungle. Foyer Akinola, a member of the group who misplaced his father to coronavirus, stated in an announcement that “Matt Hancock is not a ‘movie star’, he is the previous well being secretary who oversaw the UK having one of many highest loss of life tolls on this planet from Covid-19 whereas breaking his personal lockdown guidelines”. The group additionally notably flew a banner over the I am a Superstar camp in Australia which learn “Covid bereaved say get out of right here!”.
To many, his look flies within the face of the individuals who could not be by their dying kin’ facet or could not attend their funerals due to the foundations he set in place and subsequently broke. He’s not a minor political determine searching for a fast buck and a foolish joke – he was the face of the federal government’s response to the pandemic within the first yr of lockdown and, within the eyes of many, contributed to Britain’s huge Covid loss of life toll. He rightfully resigned for breaking the foundations. His lack of integrity doesn’t deserve a redemption arc, served up on a silver platter by ITV on the expense of the nation’s grief.
Individuals remembered why Edwina Currie was compelled to resign when she went into the jungle virtually thirty years later, and so they positively keep in mind Hancock’s resignation final yr. The ridiculousness of the affair scandal made him one thing of a public laughing inventory, however I worry that this has crossed over into some having real empathy for him. If the earlier examples of politicians coming into the truth TV enviornment and the present public response are something to go by, he is not going to come out of this trying good. But many will see him as a sufferer by his ITV highlight.
It was reported that he could be paid round £400,000 to do the present, one of many greatest payouts to a single contestant. Whereas he will get an enormous lump sum, his constituents lack illustration and bereaved households battle with seeing the face of a person who failed their household on their TV screens each night time. Matt Hancock won’t be a celeb, however this present permits him to be celebrated for breaking the foundations, and that’s not proper. Politicians serve the folks; they need to not entertain them, particularly not those that have damaged the belief of the British folks. It paints a harmful image for the way forward for British politics when leisure is extra electable than integrity.