Britain’s former health secretary, Matt Hancock, is pictured speaking at a press conference inside … [+] 10 Downing Street on further restrictions put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic on December 23, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

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The health secretary that led Britain through much of the covid pandemic has joined the cast of a reality show best known for asking contestants to eat kangaroo genitalia.

Matt Hancock, who left his government role last year after breaking covid rules during an office affair, will join 10 other famous faces in an Australian jungle for the 22nd series of “I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!”, which begins on Sunday.

Although he remains a member of parliament for West Sussex in the south of England, Hancock lost the whip from his party — the ruling Conservatives — shortly after the news broke on Tuesday.

Hancock became health secretary in 2018 under former prime minister Theresa May, and led the Department of Health and Social Care for the first 18 months of the pandemic.

But he resigned from his Cabinet role in June 2021 after images and videos of him kissing aide and longterm friend Gina Coladangelo were leaked to journalists. At the time, this physical contact broke the covid restrictions Hancock himself had helped develop.

Since returning to the back benches, the politician has kept a relatively low profile, aside from occasionally promoting Britain as a potential hub for cryptocurrency firms.

The news Hancock is joining the reality show comes days after he announced the release date for an upcoming memoir about the pandemic.

The announcement has been met with both shock and amusement, with some health policy commentators pointing out that just last week the politician was standing to chair a government committee.

Hancock defended his appearance on the show in an article for The Sun newspaper, writing that politicians “must wake up and embrace popular culture”.

He added: “While there will undoubtedly be those who think I shouldn’t go, I think it’s a great opportunity to talk directly to people who aren’t always interested in politics, even if they care very much about how our country’s run.

“It’s our job as politicians to go to where the people are — not to sit in ivory towers in Westminster.”

Launched back in 2002 on ITV, the British television show asks a cast of celebrities to participate in challenges — including eating live insects and exotic animal parts — in a jungle environment. Viewers of the series can vote on whick contestants take part in these “bushtucker trials”, as well as which celebrities should be eliminated from the show.

Hancock’s appearance on the cast list is not without precedent. Mid Bedfordshire member of parliament Nadine Dorries also lost the whip in 2012 after agreeing to appear on I’m A Celebrity without informing Conservative party officials.

The whip was restored the next year.

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