DURING his 12 troubled years in Westminster, shamed former Health Secretary Matt Hancock faced a barrage of criticism and abuse.
But it was nothing compared to the onslaught from the ex-Special Forces staff on Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins — who branded him Matt Handj*b.
Matt Hancock said: ‘They were pretty rude. Calling me names, taking the p** out of my surname, and God, it p***ed me off’[/caption]
Ex-Special Forces staff on Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins branded him Matt Handj*b[/caption]
The MP was subjected to endless jibes from the notoriously tough directing staff[/caption]
The MP was subjected to endless jibes from the notoriously tough directing staff, but says the beasting was the making of him.
“But everybody has a view of me, and I’d rather people had a view of me as I really am.
“So with all my flaws on the show, when you’re under massive physical strain and you’ve been woken up in the middle of the night, you can’t hide.
“To make something like this work, you’ve just got to go all in.
“I went in as a politician and I came out as a human being.”
Matt resigned as Health Secretary in 2021 after The Sun exposed shock CCTV footage which showed him breaking his own Covid rules in an adulterous clinch with former aide, now girlfriend, Gina Coladangelo.
He quit his Cabinet post in 2021 and is now an independent MP after the Tories disowned him.
Shortly before attempting to win over the public by appearing on I’m a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here! last November, Hancock filmed SAS: Who Dares Wins in the jungles of north Vietnam.
In an exclusive interview with The Sun, he said: “I wanted to do it to test my limits. “I’d just come through a pretty tough period being the health secretary in the pandemic and I wanted to push my limits in terms of resilience and physically.
“I took the attitude that you must absolutely throw yourself at what’s in front of you.
“You can’t hide your personality. There’s nothing to hide behind. So I wanted people to see that.
“People had seen me in the pandemic in a particular box and in a particular way, and had a view, and I’d rather people saw the real me.”
Matt was one of 16 celebrities subjected to a gruelling regime and a series of tough challenges. In charge is former SAS man Mark “Billy” Billingham, who is joined by ex-commando Jason “Foxy” Fox and former US marine Rudy Reyes, plus new instructor Chris Oliver — also ex-Special Forces.
In a trailer released last week, Matt was seen grimacing as he was bundled over while wrestling.
His unshaven face looked haunted as a hood was pulled off his head before instructors began to grill him.
Matt said: “Being on SAS was like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.
“It’s one of the toughest physical and mental things I’ve ever done, but enjoyable and very rewarding at the same time.
“You’ve got no control over how you look. Because you’re in the mud, and you are under intense physical pressure, so you can’t pull a face whilst you’re carrying 50 kilos of kit.
“I really screwed up one of the early exercises.
“When I started on the show, Foxy, who I hadn’t met, said something under his breath, taking the p out of my surname. I was thinking of that rather than getting over the high wires, so I fell off. But that was a lesson — just let it go.”
It was just one of the times Matt faced the wrath of the DS as they filmed in Thung Ui.
But he wasn’t the only celebrity to take a dressing down.
He went on: “In some of the press it’s been like, ‘Yeah, we’ve put Hancock through his paces’. And what the DS are saying is we put him through his paces, he didn’t get any special treatment, he got the same treatment everybody gets.
“I was one of the recruits and they were the DS, so they didn’t give me any passes, but I didn’t feel like I was being singled out either.”
Matt has now revealed that the attitude of his teammates and the DS was actually far from being his main concern about the process.
He said: “My biggest fear was that I just would not be up to it. My biggest fear was that I would collapse.
“I was determined not to give up, if I was medivaced out, fine, but I wasn’t going to be kicked out by the DS and I wasn’t going to give up.
“I wanted to get to the finish.”
While viewers will have to tune in on September 26 to see how Matt gets on, we can reveal he remains on the show long enough to face a series of eye-popping challenges.
In one he is trapped in an airtight chamber filled with tear gas, then forced to remove his gas mask and find a way to escape alongside Melinda.
‘Choke to death’
Matt recalled: “Suddenly it’s fire on your lungs and your eyes start streaming, and it gets worse and worse and you think, where is this going to end?
“You think ‘I’m going to choke to death’.
“Melinda and I trashed the joint. We went absolutely frantic to find this box we were told to find, and we couldn’t find it for so long.
“Then after maybe 30 seconds you realise it gets to a level and then it’s painful, but it isn’t getting worse.
“I think they were just about to give up on us when we found it, and I dived out the window.
“My eyes were streaming and there was just this horrible goo coming out of every part of my face.”
He also has to box former Liverpool and Stoke footballer Jermaine Pennant and wrestle the female recruits during murder ball – a game that tests aggression as two teams aim to get a tyre to a goal.
Matt said: “Jermaine is no softy. At the same time, I was relieved that I wasn’t being paired with somebody even bigger. Or a woman.”
At 5ft 10in, Matt is four inches taller than Jermain.
He went on: “But I thought, this is a bad moment. It didn’t hurt nearly as much as I expected, being smacked in the face.
“The really surprising thing was that it didn’t really hurt when he hit me in the face because your adrenaline is so high, you don’t feel it
“By murder ball I think we’d all lost our inhibitions about getting physically stuck in.
From left to right, Teddy Soares, Danielle Lloyd, Siva Kaneswaran, Montana Brown, Matt Hancock, Amber Turner, James Argent, Zoe Lyons, Jermaine Pennant, Melinda Messenger, Gareth Thomas, Michelle Heaton, Gareth Gates, Perri Shakes-Drayton, Jon-Allan Butterworth and Kirsty-Leigh Porter[/caption]
The disgraced ex-Health Secretary addressing the nation during the pandemic[/caption]
“Everybody just threw themselves at other people, people were just going for it.”
Matt is adept in a war of words, but he found getting physical surprising empowering.
Asked about that he added: “Yeah, totally. It was a far more enjoyable experience than I expected.
“I’ve never done that before, never done anything like it.
“And as I’m sure you will see, I think we look pretty scrappy.
“I remember the first time Jermaine hit me smack in the face and I thought, ‘I can do this. I want to get a shot in now as well’.”
All his efforts left Matt feeling triumphant, but physically he was struggling.
He was struck by trench foot, a condition that occurs if your feet are subjected to cold and wet for extended periods.
Matt said: “At the end I couldn’t walk, couldn’t stand up. I was in a bit of a mess physically.
“Trench foot is an incredibly painful problem, it is like having blisters everywhere on your feet. They were red raw for a long time.”
The Sun revealed that Matt had signed up for the show in September last year, with it to be his first reality TV stint after quitting Cabinet.
He declared in the MP’s Register of Interests that he was paid £45,000 to appear on the Channel 4 show, then added a £320,000 fee from the celeb jungle. He gave three per cent of his I’m A Celebrityy fee to charity.
He is in the unique position of being able to compare two of TV’s toughest shows. So which is more gruelling?
Matt said with a laugh: “The Australian jungle has far more hammocks and downtime.
“The SAS celebs were also 100 per cent less hostile.
“Being a senior politician does put a distance between you and people, and I felt that the whole group sort of brought me in and welcomed me, it felt like a real team.”
During his time in the jungle – where he came third – Matt faced six consecutive Bushtucker Trials as angry viewers sought retribution for his failures during his time in office.
He added: “There just wasn’t any of the abrasiveness that we saw in the other jungle.
“They treated me just like they treated everybody else.”
Matt also says taking part in the Channel 4 show has left him with a greater sense of the amazing work Britain’s real SAS does.
He said: “I wasn’t in the defence department, but I’ve worked with Special Forces in government a number of times.
“As a minister you feel it’s a privilege to have colleagues like that also serving your country.
“And what comes over (from the DS on the show) is exactly how they come over when they’re working for real. It’s phenomenal.”
The Conservatives stripped him of the whip in November 2022 when he skipped Parliament to take part in I’m A Celebrity.
He remains as independent MP for West Suffolk.
Matt says taking part in Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins helped him reconsider his political career.
He added: “I left behind some of the shackles of political life, through the course.
“Having been in a highly controlled media environment in government, you’re really clear about the message you’re trying to put across, and having been trained in message discipline, there are big downsides to that that I don’t like.
“So going on SAS was just being me. I think I said at one point, I still remember saying it because it felt so true, I went in as a politician and I came out as a human being.
“It’s safe to say the course tested my resilience.”
- Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins begins on Channel 4 series on September 26.
September 18, 2023 at 12:30AM
from The Sun