How DID he get so far? Unlikely I’m A Celebrity finalist Matt Hancock’s PR team ‘lobbied legion of TikTok fans to vote for ex-Health Secretary in strategy that saw MP get to the last round of ITV’s hit show’
- The former Health Secretary lost the Tory whip after deciding to enter the jungle
- He was slammed as a ‘total halfwit’ and criticised by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak
- Mr Hancock was subsequently made to endure six successive bushtucker trials
- But despite the backlash, he has reached tonight’s final of the popular ITV show
Matt Hancock caused widespread furore after announcing he would one of the 12 celebrities entering I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here.
The former Health Secretary, who quit after breaking his own lockdown rules by having an affair with long-time aide Gina Coladangelo, lost the Tory whip and was branded a ‘total halfwit’ over the decision to enter the Australian jungle.
Mr Hancock, 44, is said seen appearing on the show as an ‘amazing opportunity’ to connect with younger generations, having been snubbed from Rishi Sunak’s cabinet.
But the news drew a rapid rebuke from Number 10, with Mr Sunak’s spokesman saying the he believed MPs should be ‘working hard for their constituents’ at a ‘challenging time for the country’.
The former Health Secretary lost the Tory whip and was branded a ‘total halfwit’ over the decision to enter the Australian jungle
Mr Hancock, 44, is said seen appearing on the show as an ‘amazing opportunity’ to connect with younger generations
More than 1,700 also complained to Ofcom and the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group accused him of ‘trying to cash in on his terrible legacy’.
Mr Hancock was subsequently made to endure six successive bushtucker trials, including facing snakes in an underground pit and a horrible eating challenge in which he consumed camel penis, sheep vagina and cow’s anus.
But despite the public ire towards him, the former health secretary lasted more than two weeks and survived eight eliminations to reach the final of the show tonight.
Mr Hancock has surprised viewers by showing them a different side to his personality, winning over hundreds of voters who have kept the politician in camp over the likes of Culture Club singer Boy George, former Radio 1 Breakfast Host Chris Moyles and comedian Seann Walsh, who left the competition on Friday.
Support from a younger audience via aides running his TikTok account is thought to have played a large role in his success on the show.
Videos posted to his page encourage viewers to vote for Hancock along with providing step by step instructions on how to do so.
Since Hancock entered the jungle earlier this month, his PR team have posted 24 videos to his account, The Guardian reports.
Each video has been related to his appearance in the jungle, helping him reach more than 77,000 followers and achieving more than 500,000 likes.
His videos have also been watched more than 400 million times.
Fans of the popular ITV show cringed last night as Hancock donned hotpants for the Celebrity Cyclone challenge
Earlier in the show, Hancock faced a horrible eating challenge in which he consumed camel penis, sheep vagina and cow’s anus
Only Hollyoaks actor Owen Warner has a larger following on the app, while other celebrities in the camp had a much smaller number of followers.
It includes former Lioness Jill Scott, the favourite to win the show, who has little more than 2,000 followers.
PR tzar Mark Borkowski told The Guardian: ‘I think TikTok has been quite important to him. I think [users] see him as some sort of anomaly, something that is winding up the older generation, so why don’t we just play mischief?
‘The people instructing him back in Blighty have done a very good job with TikTok. A lot of it is instructing the audience what to do, to use the app, how to vote for Matt. And that bit has been clever.’
Despite the increasing number of followers, though, comments on Hancock’s videos have remained mostly negative.
Mr Borkowski added that younger viewers of the show could help the ex-health secretary win.
He continued: ‘I don’t think he has a political career after it. I think he’ll be ridiculed. He’s like a pantomime villain. I can see him doing odd advertising campaigns.’
Behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings said Hancock’s performance to reach the final was likely because the audience could see ‘someone who has more human qualities than perhaps they anticipated and as not such a bad guy after all’.
But she admitted to being surprised by the change in public opinion that saw him continually voted to take part in bushtucker trials.
Mr Hancock’s aides insist he has worked on constituency matters while in the jungle.
A spokesperson said: ‘As soon as Matt’s time in camp is up, he will return to Suffolk to hold surgeries where he will catch up with his constituents and discuss matters of concern.’
Mr Hancock doing press-ups during one of his morning runs while he was still Health Secretary
A source close to the MP previously said he would donate some of the appearance fee to St Nicholas Hospice in Suffolk, but would not say how much.
Meanwhile, during last night’s episode, Mike Tindall accused Mr Hancock of attempting to sway the public vote by placing his name-printed clothing in shot of the camp cameras.
The rugby pro also quipped that the MP ‘clearly wants to win’, while claiming that the Tory MP was ‘polling for votes’ in a bid to be crowned King Of The Jungle.
Each campmate has their name and voting lines printed on the back of their jackets and T-shirts, with Mike claiming Matt was making these more visible to the cameras.
Talking in the Bush Telegraph, he said: ‘Matt’s making sure his t-shirt and his phone numbers are on display at all times. Matt clearly wants to win.’
Mike was seen turning the MP’s belongings over other way around, adding to the camera: ‘I’m taking great pleasure in turning it around every time he leaves camp.’
‘Once a politician, always a politician. Always polling for votes,’ added the sportsman.
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