Matt Hancock has said that he will not stand as an MP at the next election and will instead find “new ways to reach people” who are disengaged with politics.
In a letter to prime minister Rishi Sunak, Mr Hancock said that he wanted “to do things differently” and find “new ways for me to communicate with people”.
Mr Hancock, one of the final three on reality show I’m a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!, said he realised there were different ways to “reach people” other than representing them in parliament.
He wrote: “I have increasingly come to believe that for a healthy democracy we must find new ways to reach people – especially those who are disengaged with politics.”
However, Mr Hancock’s decision comes after his local Tory association chairman wrote to the party’s chief whip Simon Hart to say the group decided he was “not fit to represent this constituency”.
The West Suffolk Conservative Association officers’ decision was sent to Mr Hart on 1 December, according to the i, and a copy of the letter was also sent to the local paper for publication on Thursday.
Constituency chairman Terry Wood said he had been instructed by the group’ officers to advise they had ruled they have “no confidence” in Mr Hancock and do not want him to get the whip back.
But a political ally of Mr Hancock called the letter “irrelevant” and said that the former health secretary “had already decided not to stand again when it came to light”.
In his letter to the prime minister, Mr Hancock added that he has recently “discovered a whole new world of possibilities which I am excited to explore”.
Amid dire polling for the Tories, the former cabinet minister also warned that it could take the party a decade to recover. “The revival of modern conservatism over the next decade will I suspect take place as much outside parliament as in it,” he said.
“The Conservative Party must now reconnect with the public we serve. There was a time when I thought the only way to influence the public debate was in parliament, but I’ve realised there’s far more to it than that.”
The West Suffolk MP also announced the news in a video message posted to his social media channels, in which he said he was excited to connect with the public in “new and innovative ways”.
Mr Hancock has already been paid £45,000 to appear in an upcoming Channel 4 series of Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins broadcast early next year, according to the MPs’ register of interests.
Mr Hancock had the Tory whip suspended after he headed for the jungle. But he said in his letter to the PM that the restoration of the whip was “not now necessary” since he was stepping down.
Lance Stanbury, a Tory councillor in Mr Hancock’s West Suffolk constituency said it was “inevitable” the MP would not stand for re-election following his decision to go on I’m A Celebrity.
Fellow local Tory councillor Ian Houlder described the ex-health secretary as having been “up the creek without a paddle … He was looking at his options quite rightly as anybody would and he’s gone for the money”.
Andy Drummond, a deputy chairman of West Suffolk Conservative Association, said he could not comment when asked about Mr Hancock’s decision. “I don’t really know what to make of it yet,” said Mr Drummond.