Matt Hancock is back in the news again! No, not for a marriage scandal or breaking his own policies, but for his appearance on I’m A Celebrity… Get me Out of Here! Not being the first politician to do so, one can only wonder why political figures enter reality tv: Is it for newfound stardom, to change their image, a mid-life crisis, or is it simply like Edwina Currie said: ‘Whenever anyone asks me [why I entered], I say there is only one answer: money’?
Many will be tuning in to watch the former Health Secretary – perhaps for entertainment, retribution, or a mix of both. After years of public criticism, people are finally able to get a small dose of revenge against the former Health Secretary for his failure to manage the pandemic, which he seemingly spent partying and breaking his own policies. While
watching Hancock eat a kangaroo’s penis or get covered in cockroaches might feel like welcome revenge, is reality TV really best-placed for politics? Surely Hancock understands his I’m A Celeb appearance was going to be met with a negative reception, with the risk of him being turned into a jester. Or maybe he believes that this is an opportunity for people to see the ‘real’ Matt, a patronising attempt to bring politics into the living rooms of the British people. But one thing is for sure: creating light entertainment out of those we dislike blurs the line between politics and reality, making us forget these people are public servants with an incredibly important job to do.
With the definition of a celebrity being so vague, Hancock and other people in positions ofpolitical power can use reality tv as a platform to alter their own public image. Instead of being measured on their actions, they are now being judged based on their personality (be it true or faked). But what happens when these people go to the polls? Politicians such as
Hancock gain positive reception as down-to-Earth people, regardless of their political views. While the idea of targeting disliked celebrities no doubt has its appeal to many, does this not tear at democracy, separating the policy from the personality, giving rise to people that are PR professionals, instead of those capable of governing effectively based upon their virtues and intelligence?
Hancock’s PR stunt will leave his constituents without their elected MP. Is it fair for elected politicians to neglect their duties and run away for short-lived reality tv stardom? The thousands of people from West Suffolk that he has a duty to represent will be ignored as Hancock escapes to the jungle for weeks – maybe months – avoiding current social matters.
While dodging Westminster, Hancock’s MP wage will not be suspended, and his space on the backbench will wait (perhaps impatiently) for his return. Perhaps his Australian holiday will give him time to reflect upon his what should be his main job, but it will undoubtedly allow him a chance to explain to the voting public why he is fact a trustworthy, decent human being.
So-called celebrities, such as failing politicians, see reality tv as a method to improve their own image, ultimately for their own advantage. We must ask ourselves why we have allowed relaxing tv to be overtaken by desperate people, merging tv escapism with their policies and fake personalities? For whatever reason they choose to do so, one cannot help struggling to hide their enjoyment at the suffering of failing politicians, looking to redeem themselves through five minutes of career-suicidal stardom.
Andrew Taylor [he/him] [twitter @andrewilliam_97]
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