Matt Hancock quits: I’m a Celeb MP gives up the day job

Former health secretary stepping down at next election as he has ‘discovered a whole new world of possibilities’ 

Matt Hancock
Matt Hancock doesn’t believe he’ll hold a position in government again
(Image credit: Isabel Infantes/AFP via Getty Images)

Matt Hancock has announced his intention to step down as an MP at the next election.

The former health secretary turned reality TV star becomes the latest of a young cohort of Conservative MPs who have said they intend to give up the job at the end of the current parliament.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Hancock said: “For my part, I want to do things differently. I have discovered a whole new world of possibilities which I am excited to explore – new ways for me to communicate with people of all ages and from all backgrounds."

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In a lengthy missive, Hancock “also commended himself for supporting Rishi Sunak in his bid to replace Liz Truss as Prime Minister during a turbulent year for the Conservative Party”, said The Telegraph.

He concluded his letter by saying it had been “an honour to serve in Parliament and represent the people of West Suffolk”.

“I will play my part in the debate about the future of our country and engage with the public in new ways,” he said.

A perennial cabinet minister in successive Tory governments, Hancock was suspended as a Conservative MP after taking part in the ITV reality show I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!

What is Hancock’s background?

Hancock was born in Chester, Cheshire, in 1978, and went to school in the area. He read philosophy, politics and economic at Oxford University’s Exeter College before completing an MPhil in economics at Christ’s College, Cambridge.

After working for a Tory bankbencher and at the Bank of England, his first foray into politics was in 2005, when he worked as an advisor for the then shadow chancellor George Osborne. Writing in The Independent, chief political commentator John Rentoul described Hancock as “energetic, clever, and a bit Tiggerish”.

Hancock became the member of parliament for West Suffolk in 2010 and worked in numerous ministerial roles under David Cameron and Theresa May before his “big break came in early 2018”, said the BBC. He was made culture, media and sport secretary in May’s cabinet reshuffle in January 2018, but was only in the job for six months before being made health secretary, succeeding Jeremy Hunt.

‘Into the limelight’ before an ‘abrupt exit’

Having unsuccessfully bid to become Tory leader following May’s resignation in 2019, Hancock backed Boris Johnson as a candidate and was “among a handful of ministers to keep their roles”, said the BBC.

He was “as energetic and diligent as ever” as health secretary, wrote Rentoul, and keeping his job again after the 2019 general election was “a testament to his hard work and the prime minister’s sense that he wasn’t a threat”.

It wasn’t long before Hancock “achieved an unusually high profile for a health secretary”, said the BBC, becoming a regular spokesperson for the government during the Covid-19 pandemic, which “propelled [him] into the limelight”.

Hancock’s time as health secretary ended with an “abrupt exit”, said Dominic McGrath in The Independent, after he was caught in June 2021 on CCTV “appearing to kiss his adviser Gina Coladangelo” despite having been married for 15 years. With social distancing measures in place at the time, he “faced pressure to stand down” for breaking rules set by his government. Despite initially attempting to stay on, Hancock eventually resigned because of the breach and returned to the backbenches.

That incident was “not the first time Hancock had faced a negative headline”, said PA. He had been accused of lying to the prime minister about Covid testing in care homes by Dominic Cummings, the former Downing Street chief-of-staff. Cummings also later released WhatsApp messages in which Johnson was said to have described Hancock as “hopeless”.

Following Johnson’s resignation earlier this year, Hancock was “an enthusiastic backer of Sunak”, added PA, and potentially “still harboured a return to a government role”. He put his name forward for head of the Treasury committee in October before pulling out of the race.

In his Sun article defending his reality TV appearance, however, Hancock wrote that “I don’t expect to serve in government again”.

“But I can support Rishi and the government in different ways,” he added.

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