Former I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! star and politician Lembit Öpik has defended Matt Hancock signing up to star in this year’s series.
The ex-Liberal Democrat MP joined Wednesday’s Good Morning Britain with Susanna Reid and Ed Balls where he discussed Mr Hancock’s controversial upcoming appearance on the ITV show.
Although Mr Öpik wasn’t a serving MP during his stint in the jungle, he expressed he still would have competed in the programme even if he had ministerial responsibilities.
‘I would have gone into that jungle in 2010 if I hadn’t lost my seat in May and I wouldn’t have had any qualms about it at all,’ Mr Öpik declared, referring to the fact that disgraced Tory MP Mr Hancock is still in office.
Reid reminded Öpik that Hancock remains a sitting MP and that he has a duty to his constituents.
‘He has people going through a cost of living crisis who need their MP on their side, on their doorstep,’ she said.
‘We can always make these arguments,’ Öpik fought back. ‘Boris Johnson was in Barbados recently. You could argue if somebody had an urgent problem in his constituency, he couldn’t have gotten back very fast.
‘I think we’ve got into a right disintegration here. If this wasn’t on TV, we wouldn’t be talking about it. If he’d gone on a quiet fishing holiday to Scotland, people might have said this is a good staycation.’
He continued: ‘I think he’s being a pariah because we can and I think incidentally, that’s why ITV wants him there. It’s absolutely flooding the ratings.’
Mr Öpik was the third celebrity to leave the jungle during his stint in 2010, which saw Loose Women’s Stacey Solomon win.
Mr Hancock was pictured with a huge grin on his face as he landed in Brisbane, Australia, ahead of the I’m A Celebrity launch on Sunday.
It was recently revealed that the politician is the 12th and final campmate signed up for this year’s I’m A Celebrity, and will enter the jungle late alongside comedian and former Strictly Come Dancing star Seann Walsh.
Although the politician was immediately suspended from the Conservative Party for joining the ITV show, he has since defended his decision to take part.
‘Where better to show the human side of those who make these decisions than with the most watched programme on TV?’ he said.
‘And there are many ways to communicate. It’s one of the many important things I learnt during the pandemic.’
Mr Hancock went on to say that, while many tuned in to watch the daily updates from the government amid the height of the pandemic, others got their news from shows including This Morning, Loose Women, and Gogglebox.
‘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,’ he added.
Good Morning Britain airs weekdays at 6am on ITV.