A senior Conservative MP has branded Matt Hancock an “absolute prat” who should be deselected by his local party.
Tim Loughton criticised the former health secretary for agreeing to appear on the ITV show I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here when “there’s so much going on in the UK”.
Hancock, who represents West Suffolk, has come under fire for his decision, which will involve weeks away from the House of Commons and his constituency during the worst cost of living crisis the country has seen in decades.
The former cabinet minister has lost the party whip as a result, meaning he will no longer be able to sit as a Tory MP in the Commons.
Loughton, the MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, said Hancock’s punishment was “the least he deserves”.
Speaking to Times Radio, Loughton said he was “completely disappointed and disgusted that he’s put his self and a so-called celebrity career ahead of serving his constituents”.
“I think he’s been an absolute prat and the least he deserves is having the withdrawn from him and if his local constituency have got any sense they might deselect him as well,” he continued.
“I think particularly at this time, when there’s so much going on in the UK, when we have so much work to do for all our constituents to help people through the cost of living crisis, every MP’s attention should be focused on how we do that and frankly, being helicoptered off into a jungle in Australia doesn’t strike me as the best way of doing that, in which case he needs to get his priorities right.”
Hancock’s allies have defended his decision to go abroad when the Commons is still sitting, saying it was an “incredible opportunity” for him to engage with the public and promote his dyslexia campaign.
Kemi Badenoch, the international trade secretary, also said: “We should let Matt be Matt, that’s something he’s going to have to answer to his constituents.”
Downing Street said it was “unlikely” Rishi Sunak would watch Hancock in the jungle and said MPs should be “working hard for their constituents”.
Fellow Tory MP Miriam Cates also criticised Hancock, saying: “Parliament is sitting, we’re elected to serve our constituents, that’s the job we’re there to do.”
Tory peer Lord Wolfson added: “If you’d prefer to pretend to be a celebrity than do your job as an MP, then perhaps it’s indeed time to get out of here.”
Hancock served as health secretary during the height of coronavirus pandemic, before he was forced to resign after he was caught having an affair with an aide and breaching his own social distancing rules.
The Covid-19 bereaved families for justice campaign also criticised Hancock.
Lobby Akinnola said: “Hancock isn’t a ‘celebrity’, he’s the former health secretary who oversaw the UK having one of the highest death tolls in the world from Covid-19 whilst breaking his own lockdown rules.
“The fact that he is trying to cash in on his terrible legacy, rather than showing some humility or seeking to reflect on the appalling consequences of his time in government, says it all about the sort of person he is.
“My family was ripped apart by Matt Hancock’s actions and turning on the TV to see him being paraded around as a joke is sickening.
“If he had any respect for the families like mine, he would be sharing his private emails with the Covid inquiry, not eating bugs on TV.
“Then again, perhaps if those emails came to light no TV station would touch him with a barge pole. ITV should do the decent thing and remove him from the programme.”