Former health secretary Matt Hancock has insisted he does not regret his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Hancock told fellow contestants on ITV’s I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here that he regretted breaking social distancing guidance during his affair with aide Gina Coladangelo.
But he defended his stewardship of the health service during the outbreak, insisting that problems were “caused by the virus, not the people who were trying to solve the problem”.
Since leaving office in June 2021, Mr Hancock has come under harsh criticism over shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the NHS in the early stages of the pandemic, the award of contracts to supply masks and the decision to move elderly patients into care homes without Covid testing.
But asked whether he regretted his handling of the pandemic, he replied: “The pandemic as a whole? No.”
He added: “I’m much, much more robust in my defence of it. With PPE for instance, of course I saw what happened to it. But that’s because we suddenly needed masses more PPE and so did everybody else in the world.
“And with care homes, there’s reasons for the decisions that were taken.
“Ultimately, those problems were caused by the virus, not the people who were trying to solve the problem.”
Mr Hancock seemed close to tears as he told campmates that he was looking for “forgiveness” for the “mistakes” which ended his ministerial career after the leak of CCTV footage of him in a clinch with Coladangelo in a Department of Health office.
“It was a mistake, because I fell in love with somebody,” he said. “That’s why I apologised for it.”
The former minister said that his affair had not broken lockdown laws, but admitted he breached his own guidance.
“I didn’t break any laws,” he said. “Guidance is different. Guidance is guidance, but the problem was it was my guidance.”
Fellow contestant Charlene White, a star of TV’s Loose Women, told Hancock: “My aunt died from Covid in the first wave.
“So, we couldn’t go to the hospital to go and visit her. I had to sit by myself in the church at her funeral. We couldn’t hug each other because we were following guidance.
“And I get that you fell in love, I understand all of those things, but sorry for a lot of families like mine doesn’t really cut it.”
Hancock replied: “Yeah. Well, there you go. That’s one of the reasons that I regret it as much as I do.”
Speaking to White, he added: “Do you know what it is actually, what I’m really looking for is a bit of forgiveness, that’s what I’m really looking for.”
Another contestant, TV presenter Scarlette Douglas, said: “I nearly cried then.”
Hancock replied: “So did I. We all make mistakes. I made a pretty big one.”
Another of the show’s celebrities, radio presenter Chris Moyles, later questioned the sincerity of Mr Hancock’s expression of regret.
“Forgiveness for what, Matt? What are you sorry for?” asked Moyles.
“I think he’s not being real, it’s bugging me.”
The MP joined the I’m a Celebrity cast on Wednesday after facing much criticism over his decision from the public and fellow politicians.
I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here continues on ITV on Saturday at 9pm.