West Suffolk MP and former Health Secretary Matt Hancock is jetting off down under to join ITV's "I'm a Celebrity" show this week - in what local party officials called "a serious error of judgement".

He has had the Conservative Whip withdrawn after announcing his plans to appear on the three-week-long show without getting permission from Parliamentary managers.

But in a statement released by his constituency offices, a friend of Mr Hancock said he accepted his ministerial career is probably over after he resigned from government last year.

Mr Hancock resigned in June 2021 after being filmed in an embrace with a ministerial aide during the final lockdown – a move that also cost him his marriage.

East Anglian Daily Times: Matt Hancock ran in the London Marathon. Picture: PAMatt Hancock ran in the London Marathon. Picture: PA (Image: PA)

He was an enthusiastic supporter of Rishi Sunak during both leadership elections this year, and some had thought this might bring him back to the front bench of politics.

But that didn't happen - and he was then touted as a possible chair of the House of Common's influential Treasury Committee before pulling out earlier this week.

Now it has been confirmed that he is on his way to the first series of "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!" to be filmed in Australia since 2019.

Mr Hancock's local Conservative association said they were "disappointed" in their MP's decision.

The association added: "We believe that this is a serious error of judgement when he is a paid, elected Member of Parliament and we refer you to the statement of the Chief Whip suspending him from the Conservative Party with immediate effect.

"We echo the words of the Prime Minister that MPs should be working hard for their constituents, particularly when we have a cost of living crisis and people are facing hardship."

Andy Drummond, deputy chairman (political) of West Suffolk Conservative Association, said: “I’m looking forward to him eating a kangaroo’s penis. Quote me. You can quote me on that.”

East Anglian Daily Times: Andy Drummond and Matt Hancock.Andy Drummond and Matt Hancock. (Image: PA)

Ian Houlder, a Conservative councillor on West Suffolk Council, said Mr Hancock has “no shame”.

“Everybody knows what he did during the Covid pandemic and he seems to want to rehabilitate himself all the time in the public eye,” Mr Houlder said.

“He’s got a skin as thick as a rhinoceros, quite frankly.”

And Mr Hancock's decision didn't go down well with the PM or some of his colleagues in Westminster.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said it was “unlikely” Rishi Sunak would be watching the programme.

“The PM believes that at a challenging time for the country MPs should be working hard for their constituents whether that is in the House or in their constituency,” the spokesman said.

Tory MP Tim Loughton said Mr Hancock had been an “absolute prat”.

“I’m completely disappointed and disgusted that he’s put his self and a so-called celebrity career ahead of serving his constituents,” he told Times Radio.

East Anglian Daily Times: I'm A Celebrity returns to ITV next weekend.I'm A Celebrity returns to ITV next weekend. (Image: ITV)

Mr Hancock's office in West Suffolk put out a statement quoting a political ally of the former Health Secretary.

It said: "I'm A Celeb is the most watched show on TV. Matt doesn’t expect to serve in Government again, so it's an incredible opportunity for him to engage with the 12 million Brits who tune in every single night.

"Matt has told the whips in Parliament and he will use his time in the jungle to promote his dyslexia campaign.

"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."

"There are many ways to do the job of being an MP. Whether he's in camp for one-day or three weeks, there are very few places people will be able to see a politician as they really are.

"Matt will be making a donation to St Nicholas Hospice in Suffolk, and he will, of course, declare the amount he receives from the show to Parliament to ensure complete transparency, as normal."

Mr Hancock has taken on challenges as an MP before and previously ran the London marathon for the St Nicholas Hospice.

East Anglian Daily Times: Matt Hancock has won an amateur race at Newmarket.Matt Hancock has won an amateur race at Newmarket. (Image: Matt Hancock)

He also took to the saddle in Newmarket, winning a race for amateur jockeys.

And Mr Hancock isn't the first MP to take part in the ITV show - in 2012 Nadine Dorries flew out to join the celebrities in camp.

East Anglian Daily Times: Nadine Dorries appeared on I'm a Celebrity in 2012 - but was the first sent home. Picture: PANadine Dorries appeared on I'm a Celebrity in 2012 - but was the first sent home. Picture: PA (Image: PA)

Like Mr Hancock she had the Conservative whip suspended because she was absent from the House of Commons without the whips' permission.

But in the long term, it didn't do her too much harm - her profile helped to establish her as a successful novelist which she has combined with her political career and in 2019 she became Boris Johnson's Culture Secretary.

So a political comeback isn't out of the question for Mr Hancock after the show - but he is probably hoping to avoid her immediate fate.

Ms Dorries was the first to be voted out of the jungle by ITV viewers in 2012.