Matt Hancock faces awkward questions from campmates in I'm A Celebrity jungle

Matt Hancock in I'm A Celebrity
Hancock was covered in slurry and insects after an assured performance in his first Bushtucker Trial

Matt Hancock was challenged by his fellow campmates during his first appearance on reality series I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!

ITV News presenter Charlene White asked the MP if he could understand if people were "not very happy" about him taking part while Parliament is sitting.

Boy George said it was "difficult" to have him there after his mother had been in hospital during the pandemic.

Hancock has said he is on the show to raise awareness of dyslexia.

Ahead of his entry into the camp in Australia, the former health secretary faced a barrage of criticism for his decision to enter the jungle while serving as an MP.

Hancock had the Tory whip suspended after his participation in the show was announced. The reaction prompted speculation about the welcome he would receive from his campmates and how he would respond.

In his first full episode, broadcast on Wednesday, Hancock took a calm and assured approach to his first Bushtucker trial, alongside the more squeamish Seann Walsh.

The episode concluded with Hancock being told the public had also voted him to take part in the next trial, called The Tentacles of Terror.

Referring to him being in the camp, White said: "I can only imagine the reaction back home, I can imagine that it hasn't gone down well."

Asked by her why he had joined the series when Parliament was not in recess, he replied: "I genuinely think that because we've now got sort of stability…"

White told him: "We've had stability for all of five minutes, Matt." Hancock responded: "Rishi's great, he'll be fine."

Elsewhere, singer Boy George told fellow campmate Scarlette Douglas: "At the beginning of the pandemic, my mum was in hospital. I wasn't allowed to see her. I thought she was going to die.

"I feel like, I don't want to be sitting here like I'm having fun with him [Hancock]. It's difficult for me because, you know, had something happened, if my mum had [died], I wouldn't be here now. I would have gone when he walked in."

Afterwards, the singer became tearful as he explained: "I don't want to spoil this experience for myself. I'm not good at hiding what I feel, especially when it's something so strong."

Coronation Street actress Sue Cleaver told Hancock he was "a brave man" for taking part in the show after earlier saying she was speechless following his entrance.

Others said they were prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.

"To be fair, everyone's human. We all have our own personalities outside how we are seen in the media," said Douglas.

Asked again why he had joined the show, Hancock replied: "Why? Because, all politicians are known - and me in particular - for being in a very sort of strict way of being. Which is just not actually how we are."

Hancock's early interactions with other contestants were cordial.

"Please just say, 'next slide please' and I'll be really happy," radio host Chris Moyles said to him, referring to Hancock's press conference appearances during lockdown.

Hancock obliged, but later Moyles commented: "I can't help but think he should be at work."

Matt Hancock and Seann Walsh on I'm A Celebrity
MP Matt Hancock and comedian Seann Walsh were seen entering the jungle on Wednesday's episode

Viewers who had been growing impatient for the MP's arrival would have been satisfied with Wednesday's instalment of the ITV reality series.

Hancock was seen being told he will have to act as a mole for a secret task, as he and Walsh settled in for three weeks of eating insects and sharing their outdoor accommodation with snakes.

While contestants such as football star Jill Scott and rugby player Mike Tindall have been seen in nightly episodes since Sunday, Walsh and Hancock were held back.

Before meeting the other contestants, the pair discussed whether either of them had ever cooked over a fire before (neither had).

But it was Hancock's question about Walsh's tattoo, which references rock band Blink 182, that prompted his first memorable and meme-able moment of the series.

Asked by Walsh about his own musical taste, Hancock revealed it was "quite mainstream... but I'm not going to put a tattoo of Ed Sheeran on my neck." Hancock then performed a rendition of the singer's hit song Perfect, as social media users inevitably rushed to clip the moment up to share.

Both Walsh and Hancock have joined the show with reputations to restore.

Matt Hancock in I'm A Celebrity
Hancock finally appeared in the fourth episode of the latest series of I'm A Celebrity

Walsh hopes to overcome the controversy that surrounded his appearance on Strictly Come Dancing in 2018, when he was photographed kissing his professional dance partner despite having a long-term girlfriend.

Hancock, meanwhile, is keen to show a different side of himself to the public, who remember him losing his cabinet job after breaking social distancing guidelines by kissing a colleague during the Covid-19 pandemic.

His team has stressed that Hancock plans to use his time in the jungle to raise awareness for his dyslexia campaign, although whether any of that will actually make it on air is another matter.

While Hancock has said he is "looking forward to throwing myself into [the show] like I do everything in life", he will also maintain some contact with his team in the UK.

Matt Hancock: Ex-health secretary who quit after breaking lockdown rules by having as affair in his office; a backbencher, suspended as a Tory MP for going on I'm a Celebrity; MP for West Suffolk since 2010 with a 23,000 majority
Matt Hancock: Ex-health secretary who quit after breaking lockdown rules by having as affair in his office; a backbencher, suspended as a Tory MP for going on I'm a Celebrity; MP for West Suffolk since 2010 with a 23,000 majority

He was given access to a laptop during his isolation, allowing him to continue working and to stay in touch with constituents.

The 44-year-old was criticised by fellow MPs and constituents for signing up outside of a Parliamentary recess. He was suspended as a Tory MP and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was "disappointed" in his decision to participate.

But in terms of the sheer amount of publicity he brings to the show, Hancock has already done his job for ITV. Even before entering the jungle, the acres of column inches and hours of airtime which were dedicated to his participation were the kind of publicity money cannot buy.

As a result, and perhaps aware that the public were becoming restless following his absence from the first three episodes, ITV launched Hancock and Walsh straight into a bushtucker trial as soon as they arrived in camp.

A graphic showing some examples of the animal parts that campmates have been seen eating on I'm A Celebrity since 2002
A graphic showing some examples of the animal parts that campmates have been seen eating on I'm A Celebrity since 2002

The Beastly Burrows required Hancock to crawl through a series of pitch-black tunnels and chambers, while having buckets of slime and insects poured over him, in order to win meals for the camp that night.

Walsh was considerably jumpier and more squeamish than Hancock, saying ahead of the challenge that he felt "petrified".

Together, the pair managed to find six of a possible 11 stars. Hancock admirably kept his composure while insects and slurry was poured on him from above, prompting Walsh to ask: "How are you so relaxed?!"

The challenge served as a possible indication that viewers looking forward to seeing Hancock squirm his way through trials for the next three weeks may be disappointed.