Matt Hancock tells MPs to ‘embrace popular culture’ as he defends I’m a Celebrity appearance – UK politics live | Politics


Key events

Mark Harper, the new transport secretary, was the government voice on the airwaves this morning. He said the government remained committed to HS2, but he implied it was looking at the costs could be cut. He told Sky News:

We’re going back to our 2019 manifesto, looking at the commitments we made. We have got a commitment to make sure we can get high-speed trains to Leeds.

What we’re doing in my department, and what I’ve been briefed on, is we’re looking at all of the options that are available to do that.

I will be looking at all of the options to do that in light of the decisions we take in the autumn statement.

Harper also said his department was still reviewing whether or not to press ahead with the rollout of more smart motorways. He told LBC:

I’ve looked very carefully at the concerns that people have got, at the very comprehensive report the transport select committee did.

You will know my predecessor but one paused rolling out any new smart motorways until the department gather evidence over a significant period of time about their operation, about their safety record, so that we could then make some decisions in the light of all of that evidence, and that position remains the case.

That evidence will be gathered and then we’ll be able to make decisions in due course about whether or not we roll out any more of these motorways.

Ed Balls, the former secretary of state for children and former shadow chancellor, is the outstanding example of a politician who has used reality TV to enhance their popularity and reputation. But he was on Strictly, not I’m a Celebrity, and only after he stood down as an MP. He said Matt Hancock was making a mistake in participating in the jungle show. Balls explained:

Personally, I think good luck to him. But I think he is totally crackers to do this.

Because I think it’s the wrong place to do it from, the wrong time and the wrong programme. To do it as a sitting MP just brings all these questions.

He’s lost the whip, [Rishi] Sunak, the prime minister, is clearly furious, his constituents are going to be up in arms. He’s been paid to do this while he’s also going to the jungle.

I mean, look, to be fair, Boris Johnson was on a Caribbean beach two weeks ago and he’s a sitting MP. But you know, this is a different thing.

Secondly, this is the guy who was the health secretary during the pandemic, we have not had the inquiry yet.

And therefore, it just brings back for so many people so much pain and suffering and it’s not something that you can make light of, until we’ve gone through that inquiry process.

Hundreds moved from Manston migrant centre amid overcrowding

Hundreds of migrants have been moved out of an immigration centre in Kent amid concerns it had become dangerously overcrowded, PA Media reports. The full story is here.

Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, posted about the situation at Manston last night.

Manston Update:

Thanks to the hard work and professionalism of Home Office and Border Force staff, military personnel and our contractors we have made good progress.

Numbers of migrants have fallen substantially today and we expect them to do so again tomorrow.

— Robert Jenrick (@RobertJenrick) November 1, 2022

Unless we receive an unexpectedly high number of migrants in small boats in the coming days, numbers will fall significantly this week.

It’s imperative that the site returns a sustainable operating model and we are doing everything we can to ensure that happens swiftly.

— Robert Jenrick (@RobertJenrick) November 1, 2022

Hancock suggests all MPs should try reality TV and says he will use I’m a Celebrity to raise dyslexia awareness

Good morning. Matt Hancock, the former health secretary, has written an article for the Sun defending his decision to take part in I’m a Celebrity and one claim he makes is that his participation in the programme is justified because, under Rishi Sunak, the government is now “stable”, which means parliament and the nation can now manage for three weeks without the need to have Matt Hancock on hand.

When I was first approached to take part — while I was flattered and naturally curious — it didn’t take me too long to turn the opportunity down because of the instability government was facing at the time.

Now though, the government is stable. Rishi Sunak has made a great start and I know he has got what it takes to be a superb PM.

While this argument is obviously facile, Hancock has got a point of sorts; the very fact that his descent into reality TV was leading the news for most of yesterday does suggest that the Tory crisis/psychodrama is over (at least for now), and politics is becoming a bit more normal.

Yesterday Hancock had the Conservative whip removed after he announced that he was going to take unauthorised leave from parliament to take part in the programme in Australia, and one Tory colleague described him as “an absolute prat”. In his Sun article today Hancock defends his decision by saying that he is going to the jungle to increase dyslexia awareness and implying that more MPs should be doing the same. He says:

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, going where there will be few creature comforts, not enough food, and a load of physical tasks involving snakes, spiders and plenty of other creepy-crawlies.

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 …

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.

And describing the message that he wants to convey, Hancock says:

While most people will know me for being the Health Secretary during the pandemic, what you probably won’t know is that I am dyslexic, and I’ve been campaigning for better identification and support for dyslexic children …

By talking about dyslexia on prime-time TV, I hope to not only increase support for my Dyslexia Screening and Teacher Training Bill (which receives its second reading in Parliament just days after I’m A Celebrity . . . finishes), but I aim to help the public better understand this very common condition, that affects around one in ten people.

Good luck with that, as they say. When George Galloway decided to take part in Big Brother, he said he would use the show to discuss issues like poverty and racism, but all that anyone remembers is him pretending to be a cat. It would be nice to think that he does find time for some dyslexia awareness raising amongst the animal penis munching, but the producers may have other ideas.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.35am: Amanda Pritchard, NHS England’s chief executive, speaks at a King’s Fund conference. Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, is speaking at the same event at 1.30pm.

12pm: Rishi Sunak faces Keir Starmer at PMQs.

2.30pm: Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, gives evidence to the Commons women and equalities committee on equality in the asylum process.

2.30pm: Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, gives evidence to the Commons defence committee on relations with the US and Nato.

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