Opinion

Matt Hancock as the I'm a Celebrity... fall guy must not distract from our real-life trials

Yes, it's entertaining, but don't let the Tory's appearance in the jungle become a government diversion tactic, says Big Issue editor Paul McNamee

Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock is heading for the jungle. Illustration: The Big Issue (Photos: ITV and Pippa Fowles / No10 Downing Street/Flickr)

I really like I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! As an annual indulgence, it’s impossible to resist. I don’t put up much of a fight, in truth.

But I bet my delight at its return is nothing compared to Conservative Party HQ’s. Matt Hancock’s involvement is an answer to so many of their prayers. The announcement that he was to join the show made him the immediate lightning rod for all fury, distrust and complete disenchantment with our party of government.

Still reeling that Liz Truss tanked the economy? MATT HANCOCK WILL EAT KANGAROO PENIS! Can’t quite believe Suella Braverman is home secretary again, days after being fired? LOOK, LOOK HANCOCK IS MAKING A MOCKERY OF POLITICS BY PLANNING TO GET IN A BOX COVERED IN FROGS AND SNAKES!

For a full day this week Hancock’s decision was the lead story on the BBC website. We’ve been so used to the frenetic pace of political upheaval in recent times, that just one political story lasting more than an hour before being out of date felt like a relic of a more sedate, antediluvian period. That it should vaporise all other issues was an incredible boon for those in charge.

But it shouldn’t be. It stopped the questioning of Braverman’s “invasion” rhetoric. When she stood up in the House of Commons and declared that those people seeking refuge in small books were an invasion she knew what she was doing.

Her supporters have said we shouldn’t focus on the word, but rather the scale of the problem. But words matter. Words matter a lot. The seed, previously planted that those seeking asylum are ‘other’, is being tended and fertilised. The implication is clear – these invaders are here to take something from us, that they’re below how we over here are, that they should be resisted.

The sense that they are sucking money from the Exchequer that would otherwise go to ‘hardworking Brits’ is tangible. We will hear more about the costs they are running up as cuts in essential services lie ahead for everybody.

We should call it out. Why look at those who are being held in rooms in hotels in sometimes less than basic conditions, rather than ask which companies are claiming the government money and how much are they actually trousering rather than using to help?

We need to ask why our asylum system is so broken that people have no other means but small boats. We need to look at how we speed up claims and also then find ways to allow those who are capable of working and adding to the nation to do so.

We also need somebody to keep making the argument that we have an obligation to do the right thing and help those in need. This isn’t about being hard or soft touch, or doing the wrong thing for residents here.

We must do our bit to help people in crisis. And stop demonising them.

It’s possible Hancock’s half hour in the opprobrium bin will stretch further and continue to divert attention. We need to remain vigilant though. Even when he is covered in bugs.

Paul McNamee is editor of the Big IssueRead more of his columns here. Follow him on Twitter

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income.

To support our work buy a copy! If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Poverty prevention is our best hope. Here's some tangible ways to keep people warm, dry and fed
Tom Clark

Poverty prevention is our best hope. Here's some tangible ways to keep people warm, dry and fed

If Rishi Sunak is so keen on our national identity, why is this British icon up for sale?
Paul McNamee

If Rishi Sunak is so keen on our national identity, why is this British icon up for sale?

Stacey Solomon is not afraid of having a go. She even makes DIY look easy
Lucy Sweet

Stacey Solomon is not afraid of having a go. She even makes DIY look easy

How the Northern Ballet's empty orchestra pit perfectly sums up UK's arts crisis 
Naomi Pohl

How the Northern Ballet's empty orchestra pit perfectly sums up UK's arts crisis 

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know