Matt Hancock has defended his decision to enter the I’m a Celebrity jungle, insisting politicians must “wake up and embrace popular culture”.
The former health secretary had the Conservative whip removed after it was announced that he would be taking part in the programme.
He has faced criticism for flying to Australia for the show instead of attending Parliament.
But, he explained he has agreed with producers that he can be reached regarding any urgent constituency matters.
Writing in the Sun newspaper, described it as a “great opportunity” to speak directly to people.
“Some may think I’ve lost my marbles or had one too many drinks – swapping the comfortable surroundings of Westminster and West Suffolk for the extreme conditions of the Australian outback,” he said.
“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.”
Hancock said he had learned about different methods of communication through his role during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Like you, politicians are human, with hopes and fears, and normal emotions just like everyone else,” he said.
“Where better to show the human side of those who make these decisions than with the most watched programme on TV?
“And there are many ways to communicate. It’s one of the many important things I learnt during the pandemic.”
He continued: “It’s as clear as day that politicians like me must go to where the people are, particularly those who are politically disengaged. We must wake up and embrace popular culture.
“Rather than looking down on reality TV, we should see it for what is is – a powerful tool to get out message heard by younger generations.”
The former health secretary explained that he wants to use the platform on the programme to raise awareness about dyslexia, which he was diagnosed with at 18.
He said that by speaking about dyslexia on prime-time TV, he hopes to increase support for his Dyslexia Screening and Teacher Training Bill, as well as helping people to better understand the condition.
Hancock indicated that was approached twice by the programme during the summer and turned the offer down, but had a change of heart at the third request.
The MP stated that through the fee he receives for the show, he will be making a donation to St Nicholas Hospice in Suffolk and causes supporting dyslexia.
However his first priority, Hancock insisted, will be to his constituents.
“I have agreed with the show’s producers that I can be reached at any point on any urgent constituency matters,” he said.
“While my excellent team in West Suffolk will continue to oversee matters relating to the constituency, like they already do when I’m in Westminster.
“As soon as my time in camp is up, I will return to Suffolk to hold a surgery where I will catch up with my constituents and discuss matters of concern.”
Hancock said he hopes to engage with younger voters through his appearance on the programme.
He concluded: “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.
“I was elected by the people, and it’s important to engage with voters, especially younger voters, no matter where they are, and show the human side of politicians. That’s what I hope to do.”
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