What next for Matt Hancock? Five possible scenarios after I'm A Celeb exit

Credit: ITV
Matt Hancock finished third on I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! Credit: ITV

Matt Hancock surpassed expectations to finish third on ITV's I'm a Celebrity, but faces an uncertain political future when he returns to Westminster.

The former health secretary lasted more than two weeks of bushtucker trials in the jungle before reaching the final. He eventually lost to Lioness Jill Scott.

But after losing the Tory whip over his trip to Australia, returning to Westminster may be tricky.

Matt Hancock speaking to Boy George in the I'm A Celebrity... jungle. Credit: ITV / Shuttershock

Business secretary Grant Shapps suggested that the West Suffolk MP's career in parliament is "pretty much done".

Shapps told Times Radio on Monday: "I do think the right place for him to be is in Parliament looking after his constituents. It’s a very hard job to do if you’re completely out of touch.

"And I think he may therefore have come to the conclusion that his parliamentary career is pretty much done.”

So, what will the next few weeks hold for the man who was only last year leading the UK’s response to the Covid pandemic?

Here is what could be in store for Mr Hancock:

Hasty exit

He could step down as West Suffolk MP, although this is unlikely and he is not obliged to do so.

There is a process by which constituents can “recall” their elected representative before the end of their term.

But this can only be triggered by three circumstances: a criminal conviction, a suspension from the House following a sanction from the Standards Committee, or an offence relating to false or misleading allowance claims.

This means it is up to Mr Hancock whether he continues serving as the MP for West Suffolk until the next election.

Should he wish to represent the seat again, he will need to convince the voters in the constituency to support him.

This may be challenging given he caused some upset by parking his parliamentary responsibilities to feature in a reality show thousands of miles from home.

A spokesperson for Mr Hancock said on Monday that the former health secretary has "no intention of standing down or stepping away from politics."

Frozen out

Even if he thinks he can win over the electorate, there is every chance Mr Hancock may be denied the opportunity to stand as a Tory MP again.

The former health secretary is currently sitting as an independent MP, having had the Conservative whip suspended over his decision to join the show at a time when Parliament was sitting.

If this is not restored by the deadline for Tory candidates to declare their intention to stand again, on December 5, he remains officially unaffiliated.

At this stage, the party will have to begin the process of choosing a new candidate for his seat.

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If he does get the whip back by December 5, Mr Hancock could still be frozen out of the next general election by his local association.

Should he wish to run again, he will need to make a written application to their executive council, which will hold a secret ballot.

If he does not get their support, he will have the right to request a postal vote of the full membership of the association.

Alternatively, he can have his name automatically added to the final list of candidates to be considered at a general meeting of the local party.

His prospects in this regard have been called into question, as his jungle jaunt was met with some hostility by Andy Drummond, deputy political chairman of West Suffolk’s Tory association.

“I’m looking forward to him eating a kangaroo’s penis. Quote me. You can quote me (on) that,” he said.

Change of direction

There is precedent on whether an MP can have the whip restored after appearing on I'm a Celeb.

Former culture secretary Nadine Dorries was briefly kicked out of the parliamentary party when she decided to make the trip to Australia in 2012.

The Mid-Bedfordshire MP Nadine Dorries had the Conservative Whip withdrawn when she appeared on the show in 2012 Credit: ITV

Six months later, in May 2013, she got the whip back and went on to serve in Boris Johnson's cabinet.

It is not clear whether Mr Hancock will fight to return to the Tory ranks or settle down for the rest of his term as an independent MP.

In an indication of his political ambitions going forward – or lack thereof – an ally has said the former health secretary “doesn’t expect to serve in government again”.

Disciplinary risk

Mr Hancock's appearance on I'm a Celeb has also landed him in hot water with Parliament’s anti-corruption watchdog, as he was found to have broken government rules by not consulting the body before leaving for the show.

Lord Pickles, the Tory chairman of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments which advises on post-ministerial jobs, has alerted Cabinet Officer minister Oliver Dowden to the breach.

He has said it is up to Mr Dowden to decide on any potential punishment.

But Lord Pickles personally believes further action would be “disproportionate”.

Covid questions

Mr Hancock’s stint down under has proved hugely controversial, partly because it clashes with the UK’s highly anticipated Covid inquiry.

His decision to join the reality show has drawn ire from campaigners, with some going so far as to fly a plane over the jungle bearing the message: “Covid bereaved say get out of here!.”

The banner which was flown over the I'm a Celebrity camp. Credit: Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK

The 38 Degrees group, who are working with Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, said Mr Hancock should be giving bereaved families “the answers they deserve”, rather than “playing games for dingo dollars and plastic stars”.

But a spokesperson for the former health secretary insisted he “continues to support the Covid inquiry”, which is so wide-ranging that it has been split into three modules, with more to be announced.

The inquiry is expected to last at least a year, with the first evidence sessions starting in May 2023.