Appalling news for exotic animal genitalia, as it is revealed that former health secretary Matt Hancock will be going into the I’m a Celeb jungle. I know: it’s simultaneously the very last thing you want to see, and also ALL you want to see. To any Guardian readers prompted to email me with something along the lines of “actually I wouldn’t dream of seeing this”, do please take the following column as a thank you for your message, but also understand that it could be December before I am able to formally get back to you. I find that in November, I will mostly be watching Matt Hancock on I’m a Celebrity.
The details as we have them are thus: as the ITV series launches on Sunday night, Hancock will materialise in the Australian bush, having either arrived by air or simply passed through a haunted dunny. In terms of Matt’s long but remorseless journey towards being prime minister, this is probably his equivalent of Churchill’s stint in the second Boer war. That said, he has immediately lost the Tory whip. But maybe he’ll find something much more precious – himself.
He will certainly take part in a series of challenges and trials with campmates including Mike Tindall, Boy George, Corrie’s Sue Cleaver, Loose Women’s Charlene White, and a load of other people who didn’t lecture you like a try-hard PSHE teacher for the whole of 2020 and half of 2021 while tens of thousands of people died needlessly on his watch. A source close to Hancock told the Guardian that the serving MP has been considering the show’s offer for a while, but only feels able to do it now because “the government is stable”. Amazing. For a while back there, it was clear things were so bad they couldn’t withstand the market-moving spectacle of Boy George mugging him off round the campfire, while Matt covered his mic and hissed: “Please, think of what this will do to gilt yields!” But now things are so bad it literally doesn’t even matter.
In terms of the various tried-and-tested I’m a Celeb gameplans open to Matt, I’m trying to think of what would be the most banter outcome. Then again, it’s all banter, isn’t it? The second the genius behind the “CARE” badge got on the flight to Queensland, we already reached banter nirvana. Hang on, wait: there is one way this could go supra-banter. Specifically, Hancock could do that little introductory piece to camera all the contestants do, and keep a big reveal till the end. “Hi, I’m Matt. I’m 44, I’m an MP – quite random, I know! – and I’m here to maximise growth. Personal growth. Anything else? Oh yeah – newly single. I’m not looking for love, but … I’m not not looking for it either?”
Like I say, that’s just storyboarding and not in-game footage. There is absolutely no suggestion Matt has recently parted company with former spad-u-like Gina Coladangelo, nor that he will be pictured in a clinch against the Bush Telegraph door with Love Island alumna Olivia Attwood. But look: if it does happen, I am available to go on any number of wanky news programmes and discuss “what it says about British politics”. I truly adore these studio-based think-pieces, in which no one is ever allowed to reply by simply cackling: “I mean honestly, Nick, what do you THINK it fucking says?!”
Sorry, but spare us so much as a single self-styled serious news anchor attempting to use Hancock’s appearance to “provoke debate”. You know the sort of thing. “Is this actually quite clever on his part?” “In a world where people are turning off politicians, is this a way of getting them to tune back in?” Guys, please, please don’t attempt to intellectualise Matt Hancock’s turn in the jungle! Just experience it as a feeling. Let it wash over you like a really iconic I’m a Celeb waterfall shower scene.
As for what’s brought all this on, who can say? This week has certainly seen eye-catching merchandising moves in the Matt Hancock space. Only yesterday, we got what felt like a rushed reveal of the cover of his Pandemic Diaries, which are now being published on 6 December. A little late to be formally considered a Christmas title (perhaps timed for the lucrative Dry January market). That said if you are short of a present. I think I can say with some confidence that were you to enter a local bookshop/The Works at 6.59pm on 24 December, copies of this book WILL be available, and would surely delight any family member you wish to threaten you with the bacon scissors before Christmas lunch.
In fact, the book looks so insultingly dreadful that it would ironically make the perfect gift for Matt Hancock. We learn from various publicity material that Pandemic Diaries is “based on the author’s contemporaneous records of those extraordinary months”. I keep thinking of the bit in The Importance of Being Earnest where Algy asks Cecily if he can read her diary, and she goes “Oh no. You see, it is simply a very young girl’s record of her own thoughts and impressions, and consequently meant for publication.” (Although if memory serves Cecily did not produce her diary, as Hancock has done, in collaboration with Isabel Oakeshott.) Anyway, if Matt does go on to diversify into a fragrance line – and on this form you certainly wouldn’t rule it out – you could easily see it being called something like “Divorce – by Matt Hancock”.
As for what to expect in his forthcoming I’m a Celeb appearance, let’s extemporise. Hancock fashioning a football out of palm fronds and badgering Jill Scott to beat him at keepy-uppies. Hancock throwing a protective ring round the camp’s elders, all of whom immediately get medevacked out. Conversations round the campfire in which Hancock tells Chris Moyles: “Ultimately what happened is that I fell in love. Is that a crime? If so, lock me up and throw away the key.” Hancock deciding Mike Tindall is a fellow alpha male and attempting to form an alliance with him: “Together, we could rule the jungle.” Tindall declining; Tindall engineering things so he faces off against Hancock in a bushtucker trial; Tindall just staring dead-eyed and unblinking at Hancock as he boshes round after round of animal dick and the former health secretary fails to keep up; Tindall’s sheer avenging willpower breaking Matt’s spirit until he succumbs to a live, category 5 spiritual meltdown and full public apology. Cop that, Scrappy Doo.
The darkest potential timeline, obviously, is that the British phone-voting public takes to Matt of the Jungle, and he actually goes on to win the show. If that happens, the ban on think-pieces is obviously immediately rescinded, and I will personally join the growing numbers of people who are turning away from the very idea of democracy. See you in the militias.
Marina Hyde is a Guardian columnist
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