Message for Matt Hancock from Covid bereaved flown over I'm a Celebrity camp

Hancock faced criticism from multiple directions on Tuesday, as Libby Wiener reports

A sign bearing a message for Matt Hancock has been flown over the I'm a Celebrity... Get me Out of Here camp in Australia, pouring scorn on his appearance on the show.

The former health secretary's controversial appearance in the jungle has prompted a response from people who lost loved ones during the Covid pandemic.

Hancock came under fire for his handling of the virus outbreak, and later resigned after leaked CCTV footage revealed his extra-marital affair and showed him breaching Covid restrictions.

A sign bearing the words: "Covid bereaved say get out of here!" was flown over the jungle where the 44-year-old politician and his cast-mates are starring in the ITV show, according to a campaign group.

Back in the UK, the Parliament’s standards watchdog said dozens of complaints have been made about Hancock's decision to appear on the show.

“One member of the public contrasted the dignity of veterans on Remembrance Sunday with a former secretary of state and they said this individual was waiting for a buffet of animal genitalia and they wondered what had happened to the dignity of public office,” Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone told MPs on Tuesday.

The Covid Bereaved Families for Justice UK said the 38 Degrees group, which works on social justice campaigns, had flown the sign for Hancock over the camp on its behalf.

A petition on the 38 Degrees website, demanding Mr Hancock be prevented from appearing on I'm a Celebrity, had gathered more than 44,000 signatures by Tuesday.

The Covid bereaved families group, posted photos of the airborne sign on Twitter.Lobby Akinnola, who lost his father to Covid, said on behalf of the group: "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 35ft banner circled the camp for two hours. Credit: PA

"He’s the man we wrote to over a year ago asking him to pass over his private gmail emails relating to the handling of the pandemic to the new health secretary in readiness for the Covid Inquiry. He’s the man who didn’t even respond to us.

"He's claimed the inquiry will set the record straight, but it can only get to the truth if it has the evidence it needs. He should be at home sending in those emails rather than being rewarded with £400,000 for not doing his job.

"His transparent attempt to sell more books and cleanse his public profile has failed, just like the “protective ring” he dared to suggest he had placed around care homes.”

Matthew McGregor, CEO of 38 Degrees said: “No one has forgotten how Matt Hancock conducted himself during the Covid-19 pandemic: not the general public, not his campmates, and certainly not those who lost loved ones.

"Our message emblazoned across the skies makes crystal clear to Matt Hancock:  you should be representing the people of West Suffolk and giving Covid Bereaved Families the answers they deserve, rather than playing games for dingo dollars, plastic stars and a £400,000 paycheck.”

38 Degrees said the plane bearing a 35-metre banner was flown over the base camp, just north of Murwillumbah, on Australia's east coast, from 11am-1pm AEST on Tuesday.

ITV has been approached for comment.

It comes after Mr Hancock spent six consecutive appearances on the show carrying out stomach-churning trials, as the public repeatedly nominated him to carry out challenges like being covered in snakes and creepy-crawlies.Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has also criticised his former Conservative Party colleague for entering the jungle.

Mr Sunak warned that politicians have to earn people’s respect, and should do that by putting their constituents and country “at the forefront of what we do”.

Asked by reporters if Mr Hancock’s decision to enter the jungle and eat a kangaroo's penis or wallaby’s anus was “denigrating to politics” during his trip to Indonesia for a G20 summit, the PM replied: “I think politics at its best can and should be actually quite noble. I think most people who get into politics, from whatever party, do it because they care about public service.

Rishi Sunak holding a press conference with political journalists on board a government plane as he headed to Bali, in Indonesia Credit: Leon Neal/PA

“It is incumbent on all members of parliament to do the things that earn people’s respect and that’s serving your constituents really well, making a difference to their surgeries, it is how you conduct yourself.”

Mr Sunak confirmed he had not watched the show, but said he was disappointed that Mr Hancock had gone into the jungle, and backed the decision to strip him of the Tory whip, which means Mr Hancock is now an independent MP.

Mr Sunak said the country was facing huge challenges and “that’s what we should be focused on and that’s why I was disappointed when he went on the show”.

A spokesperson for the MP said: "Matt continues to support the Covid inquiry and he'll continue to meet all the deadlines.

"Matt has already handed over his phone and given full access to all his emails and text messages, when requested by Parliament.

"The second reading of Matt's Dyslexia Screening and Teacher Training Bill is just days after I'm A Celebrity finishes.

"By going on the show, Matt hopes to raise the profile of his dyslexia campaign and will use the platform to talk about an issue he really cares about in front of millions of people. Matt is determined that no child should leave primary school not knowing if they have dyslexia."

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