Stanley Johnson has defended Matt Hancock following a furious backlash over his I’m A Celebrity appearance. Boris Johnson’s father, who appeared on the ITV show in 2017, said he does not “share in the huge general outcry” and is “not going to join in this great chorus of indignation” against the former health secretary.
Mr Johnson, 82, said Mr Hancock has a point that the reality show watched by millions is an opportunity to reach out to the public on issues he cares about including his work on dyslexia.
The former contestant said he tried to do the same by speaking out on the environment, a cause close to his heart, during his stint in the Australian jungle.
Mr Johnson told LBC: “I don’t share in the huge general outcry which there seems to be about Matt Hancock.
“I do take his point that there you are, you have an audience, I think its several million who watch it.
“You have a chance, when does that chance come for a politician to make some points.
“He said that he is going to be seeking at all possible moments to raise the issue of dyslexia.
“I take him at his word there. I tried at all possible moments to raise the issue of climate change, general warming, biodiversity.
“A lot of those things hit the cutting room floor I’m sure.
“But I’m not going to join in this great chorus of indignation about Matt Hancock.”
He added: “It’s worth Matt Hancock seizing whatever moment he had between chomping on a mouthful of animal parts.”
Mr Hancock was suspended from the Tory party yesterday after it emerged he was heading for the Australian jungle to join the likes of former England rugby player Mike Tindall, singer Boy George and DJ Chris Moyles.
The West Suffolk MP, who was forced to quit as health secretary last year after breaking Covid lockdown rules by conducting an affair in his ministerial office, defended decision in an article for The Sun as he flew over 10,000 miles to join the show, which starts on Sunday.
He argued it is “a great opportunity to talk directly to people who aren’t always interested in politics”.
Mr Hancock said reality TV is an “honest and unfiltered” way to communicate with voters.
He said: “It’s our job as politicians to go to where the people are – not to sit in ivory towers in Westminster.
“There are many ways to do the job of being an MP. Whether I’m in camp for one day or three weeks, there are very few places people will be able to see a politician as they really are.”
He added: “So, the truth is, I haven’t lost my marbles or had one too many pina coladas. It’s something I’ve given a lot of thought to.”
Mr Hancock, who is following in the footsteps of Nadine Dorries who was in the line up in 2012, said he wants to use the “incredible platform” to raise awareness of dyslexia.
But his decision to take part in the series has sparked a furious reaction, with one Tory MP branding him an “absolute prat”.
Lobby Akinnola, from the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice campaign, said: “Matt 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.”
Shadow health minister Andrew Gwynne added: “To be fair to Matt Hancock, I’d sooner eat wallaby anus than be a Tory MP too.”