Penny Mordaunt defended her reality television experiences and said it did not affect her duties as an MP after Matt Hancock’s move to join I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! was raised in parliament.
Discussing her appearance on ITV show Splash! in 2014, the Commons leader said she was compared to “a paving slab being pushed off a scaffold” – but insisted she could still work as an MP.
Mr Hancock, the former health secretary, had the Tory whip suspended after it emerged that he was joining the ITV reality show at a time when parliament is sitting.
Government minister Graham Stuart was the latest to question claims by Mr Hancock’s allies that he would still be able to fulfil his duties as the MP for West Suffolk.
“We think that MPs should be attending to their duties … It’s not really possible to do that from the jungle,” he told Sky News. “While you’re eating various worms and sticking your head in unpleasant places it’s quite hard to concentrate on what’s going on in your Suffolk constituency.”
Shadow Commons leader Thangam Debbonaire told Ms Mordauant: “We also know she’s a bit partial to reality TV, so perhaps I can suggest something a little closer to home – I hear Channel 4 might commission another season of Make Me Prime Minister.”
She joked that Boris Johnson might fancy an appearance on A Place In The Sun, while the current should consider applications for Pointless.
Firing back, Ms Mordaunt replied: “When I heard that a colleague was volunteering to be squeezed into small spaces with slippery creatures, was going to have to swallow unpalatable things to achieve their goals and that their credibility and dignity was placed in jeopardy, I was assuming you were talking about a member of the opposition frontbench.”
On her Splash! appearance, she added: “Honourable members will find it hard to believe – given my performance at the time was compared to having the elegance of a paving slab being pushed off a scaffold – but I did actually have training, but none of my time was spent away from this House.”
Ms Mordaunt said she had helped save the Hilsea Lido in Portsmouth, which she said was currently being “restored to its 1930s glory” with help from the government’s levelling-up fund.
Matt Hancock will be paid around £400,000 to appear on I’m a Celebrity, according to The Sun. Sharon Twite, the landlady of The White Swan in Hancock’s constituency, said: “He’s getting £400,000 to go and eat grubs in the jungle, Jesus Christ.”
But the MP previously told the newspaper he wants to use the “incredible platform” on the show to raise awareness of dyslexia and insisted it “wasn’t the cheque” that made him decide to join the show.
Meanwhile, the executive producer of I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! said enlisting Mr Hancock to appear on the popular reality series was “not a question of trying to divide [the] camp”.
Olly Nash said: “We have never been a deliberately divisive camp. It’s up to them to come into the camp and it’s up to them if they want to leave.”