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Opinion

Matt Hancock as the I’m a Celebrity… fall guy must not distract from our real-life trials

Yes, it’s entertaining, but don’t let the Tory’s appearance in the jungle become a government diversion tactic, says Big Issue editor Paul McNamee

I really like I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! As an annual indulgence, it’s impossible to resist. I don’t put up much of a fight, in truth.

But I bet my delight at its return is nothing compared to Conservative Party HQ’s. Matt Hancock’s involvement is an answer to so many of their prayers. The announcement that he was to join the show made him the immediate lightning rod for all fury, distrust and complete disenchantment with our party of government.

Still reeling that Liz Truss tanked the economy? MATT HANCOCK WILL EAT KANGAROO PENIS! Can’t quite believe Suella Braverman is home secretary again, days after being fired? LOOK, LOOK HANCOCK IS MAKING A MOCKERY OF POLITICS BY PLANNING TO GET IN A BOX COVERED IN FROGS AND SNAKES!

For a full day this week Hancock’s decision was the lead story on the BBC website. We’ve been so used to the frenetic pace of political upheaval in recent times, that just one political story lasting more than an hour before being out of date felt like a relic of a more sedate, antediluvian period. That it should vaporise all other issues was an incredible boon for those in charge.

But it shouldn’t be. It stopped the questioning of Braverman’s “invasion” rhetoric. When she stood up in the House of Commons and declared that those people seeking refuge in small books were an invasion she knew what she was doing.

Her supporters have said we shouldn’t focus on the word, but rather the scale of the problem. But words matter. Words matter a lot. The seed, previously planted that those seeking asylum are ‘other’, is being tended and fertilised. The implication is clear – these invaders are here to take something from us, that they’re below how we over here are, that they should be resisted.

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The sense that they are sucking money from the Exchequer that would otherwise go to ‘hardworking Brits’ is tangible. We will hear more about the costs they are running up as cuts in essential services lie ahead for everybody.

We should call it out. Why look at those who are being held in rooms in hotels in sometimes less than basic conditions, rather than ask which companies are claiming the government money and how much are they actually trousering rather than using to help?

We need to ask why our asylum system is so broken that people have no other means but small boats. We need to look at how we speed up claims and also then find ways to allow those who are capable of working and adding to the nation to do so.

We also need somebody to keep making the argument that we have an obligation to do the right thing and help those in need. This isn’t about being hard or soft touch, or doing the wrong thing for residents here.

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We must do our bit to help people in crisis. And stop demonising them.

It’s possible Hancock’s half hour in the opprobrium bin will stretch further and continue to divert attention. We need to remain vigilant though. Even when he is covered in bugs.

Paul McNamee is editor of the Big IssueRead more of his columns here. Follow him on Twitter

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income.

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