Why Matt Hancock could return to the Tory fold sooner than you might think

Matt Hancock lost the Tory whip over his time in the jungle, but could be about to get it back - ITV/Shutterstock

Matt Hancock lost the Tory whip over his time in the jungle, but could be about to get it back – ITV/Shutterstock

Matt Hancock is expected to regain the Conservative whip having made clear he would not be quitting politics after finishing third in the I’m A Celebrity jungle.

Senior government figures believe there is a path for him to return to the Tory benches, with Nadine Dorries, another Tory MP who appeared on the show, seen as a precedent.

Mr Hancock is a vocal supporter of Rishi Sunak, backing both of his Tory leadership campaigns this year. The pair also used to have parliamentary offices beside each other.

The Prime Minister also faces crunch votes in the House of Commons, with rebellions emerging on planning and onshore wind and more Tory splits expected next year – meaning every vote counts.

Ms Dorries had to wait around six months to regain the Tory whip after she lost it for appearing on ITV’s I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! in 2012.

At the time, Ms Dorries was a public critic of David Cameron and George Osborne, then the prime minister and chancellor, having once dubbed them “arrogant posh boys”.

Mr Hancock’s overt support for Mr Sunak, combined with the challenges the Government faces keeping the Tories together, despite a sizable Commons majority, means his wait could be shorter.

Losing the whip means that an MP no longer sits in the House of Commons for the political party they were elected under. So Mr Hancock, the MP for West Suffolk, is currently an independent.

The former health secretary’s run in the Australian jungle ended on Sunday, night when he finished in third place in the reality television show.

Matt Hancock finished third on I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! - ITVMatt Hancock finished third on I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! - ITV

Matt Hancock finished third on I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! – ITV

A spokesman for Mr Hancock said of his political future: “Matt has no intention of standing down or stepping away from politics.”

It means he will continue to attend Parliament. A question mark remains on whether he will stand again at the next general election, expected in 2024.

The deadline for Tory MPs to decide on whether to seek another term is this Friday, leading to speculation that Mr Hancock could be replaced as the Tory candidate in his constituency.

But despite the cut-off it is possible exceptions can be made, with the process for deciding who is the formal Tory candidate potentially dragging on for months.

A decision on whether to allow Mr Hancock to regain the Tory whip sits with Simon Hart, the Chief Whip, who is in charge of party discipline.

Mr Hancock is expected to talk to Mr Hart in the coming days as he returns to Westminster to continue his duties as an MP.

Sir Tony Blair, the former Labour prime minister, offered some warm words for Mr Hancock over his appearance – telling The News Agents podcast: “He’s probably got quite a lot of courage to go and do something like that.”