Matt Hancock should “do the honourable thing and resign”, councillors in his constituency say.
The former health secretary has faced widespread condemnation for taking part in the reality TV show I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! Critics say he cannot be serving his constituents while he is more than 10,000 miles away in Australia.
Councillors in the biggest town in his constituency held a show of hands and voted by a majority to tell him to stand down.
And in a letter sent to his office, the 13-member Haverhill council asks Mr Hancock to “clear the pitch for someone who wants to serve the people of West Suffolk”, because he had lost interest in the job.
The MP, 44, who has had the whip withdrawn by the Conservative Party, has already said he “does not expect to serve in government again”. There is speculation that he might stand down at the next election after failing to be offered a job in Rishi Sunak’s cabinet.
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner has suggested he is appearing on the show for the fee, reportedly around £400,000.
The letter, written by council clerk Colin Poole, says: “By a majority vote members of the council have directed me to express their displeasure at your decision to absent yourself from your duty to your constituents to join the cast of ITV’s I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!
“At a time when unprecedented cost-of-living pressures on your residents are causing real hardship to them, and we have a failing health service locally with appalling ambulance response times, the energy crisis causing schools and other public services severe issues in maintaining services, my members believe we need all hands on deck to fight our corner.
“Currently there is no one to speak for West Suffolk in the House of Commons and your actions are unlikely to gain any sympathy for the area when all the other parliamentarians are in the chamber fighting their own corners.
“By your actions you have made it clear to everyone that you see your future outside of politics.”
The letter concludes by saying that the councillors “ask you to do the honourable thing and resign your seat so you can follow your chosen path and clear the pitch for someone who wants to serve the people of West Suffolk”.
Mr Sunak had backed the decision to suspend the MP.
Mr Hancock, who became Tory MP for West Suffolk in 2010, was appointed health secretary in 2018. After Theresa May’s resignation, he announced plans to stand for the party leadership but soon withdrew.
While the pandemic was still spreading, in June last year, he was publicly disgraced for violating his own social distancing rules by having affair with an aide, Gina Coladangelo.
Fellow Tories called then for him to quit.
Under parliamentary rules, MPs can be “recalled” – allowing constituents to hold them to account outside the regular electoral cycle – only if they are guilty of serious wrongdoing, including being sent to jail, suspended from parliament for at least 10 days or convicted of fiddling their expenses.
The Independent has contacted Mr Hancock’s parliamentary office to ask for a response.
Earlier in the week, Mr Hancock defended his decision, and sources close to him said he would use his time in the Australian jungle to promote his dyslexia campaign.
A statement from his office said: “Matt has an excellent team working with him in West Suffolk, but producers have agreed that he can communicate with them if there’s an urgent constituency matter.”