Blog Post

Black Letter Communications Blog

Expert pr advice for the legal sector

Hancock’s I’m a Celebrity stint: a cruel and callous PR disaster

Circus owner Phineas T Barnum is credited as saying the immortal phrase ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’, but he didn’t consider the car crash that is Matt Hancock appearing on I’m a Celebrity. To be fair to Phineas he was speaking in the 19th century and nobody could have ever predicted a reality TV show appearance that was so misjudged and ill thought out.

Whilst watching Matt ‘Westminster’s very own Alan Partridge’ Hancock eat the nether regions of a marsupial may on the surface be amusing for most, there is a serious side that makes his appearance not just a PR disaster, but unbelievably cruel.

At Black Letter we handle the legal PR for the firm which acts for the Covid 19 Bereaved Families for Justice (CBFFJ) and as a result I have spoken to several members who lost loved ones in tragic circumstances during the pandemic. The most tragic of all of the many blunders made by Government has to be the unfathomable decision to discharge hospital patients to care homes without a negative Covid test. Who was in charge? Hancock.

Now hindsight is a wonderful thing and I’m not suggesting Hancock took his ill-founded decision through malice – though there was undoubtedly a huge amount of incompetence – but that’s not the point. The point is that his actions led to thousands of unnecessary deaths. Oh, and on top of that he broke lockdown rules by snogging an aide in his office. Given these facts anybody with the slightest ounce of compassion would keep their head down, but not the Right Honourable Member for West Suffolk, laughing all the way to the bank with his reported £400,000 paycheck.

When Nadine Dorries MP entered the jungle in 2012 she was criticised for being away from her constituency and had the party whip removed. At the time it was perceived as a PR disaster that would end her career, but on the contrary, she found herself back on the front benches a few years later. As they say, no such thing as bad publicity. But Hancock’s case is a vastly different. To do something so juvenile and flippant as appear on I’m a Celebrity, watched by millions of people, many of whom would have lost loved ones during the pandemic, is just rubbing salt in the wounds.

As the CBFFJ tweeted: “Matt Hancock isn’t a ‘celebrity’, he’s the former health secretary who oversaw the UK having one of the highest death tolls in the world from Covid-19 whilst breaking his own lockdown rules.

“The fact that he is trying to cash in on his terrible legacy, rather than showing some humility or seeking to reflect on the appalling consequences of his time in Government says it all about the sort of person he is.

“Our families were ripped apart by Matt Hancock’s actions, and turning on the TV to see him being paraded around as a joke is sickening.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself. So, what Hancock is doing is actually the worst kind of PR disaster – it’s not just damaging to his reputation because he is doing stupid or incompetent things, it’s damaging because he is being callous, cruel and making those who lost loved ones see the man culpable laugh and joke in the jungle. Whoever is advising Hancock clearly subscribed to Phineas’ mantra, but for me Hancock’s appearance is nothing short of a disgrace. In PR terms it’s career suicide.

Matt Hancock I'm A Celebrity