Matt Hancock has finally opened out about his dyslexia for the first time since joining I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!, after vowing ahead of his appearance on the show that he would utilise the "incredible platform" to raise awareness of the learning issue.
When it was first announced that the sitting West Suffolk MP would be entering the jungle as part of this year’s I’m A Celebrity line-up, eyebrows were raised.
Hancock immediately lost the Conservative whip - effectively banishing him from the party (he now sits as an independent MP) - as many of his colleagues lambasted his participation on the show at a time when Parliament is not in recess and the country faces unprecedented challenges in the face of the cost-of-living crisis.
How could Hancock possibly hope to serve the needs of his constituents from the other side of the globe? Though he was reportedly granted access to a laptop during his pre-show isolation period, and will be kept abreast of any ‘urgent’ matters while on the show, New South Wales is hardly Newmarket. No matter where you’d rather spend your November.
Beyond Hancock’s blustering attempt to validate his appearance as a chance to display the human side of politicians and convey an “important me$$age$ to the ma$$e$” through the medium of reality TV, he gave another reason for taking part.
Explaining his decision, Hancock said, "I want to raise the profile of my dyslexia campaign to help every dyslexic child unleash their potential — even if it means taking an unusual route to get there, via the Australian jungle!"
But is Hancock himself dyslexic? How will his appearance on I’m A Celeb help spread awareness, and what is the former health secretary’s Dyslexia Screening Bill? Here is everything you need to know.
What has Hancock said?
In an article for The Sun, Hancock justified his choice for appearing on the show, claiming it is “a great opportunity to talk directly to people who aren’t always interested in politics.” He described reality television as an “honest and unfiltered” approach of communicating with voters.
“It’s our job as politicians to go to where the people are – not to sit in ivory towers in Westminster,” Hancock wrote. “There are many ways to do the job of being an MP. Whether I’m 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.”
He added: “So, the truth is, I haven’t lost my marbles or had one too many pina coladas. It’s something I’ve given a lot of thought to.”
What is Hancock’s Dyslexia Screening Bill?
Hancock has also stated that he wants to use the "incredible platform" to promote awareness of dyslexia, adding that it "wasn’t the cheque" that drew him in. He said that he had turned down the programme "twice this summer," but had a "change of heart" after ITV producers asked for a third time.
The MP said it was not the money that influenced his decision, and that he will make "a donation" to St Nicholas Hospice Care in Suffolk, however he did not specify how much he will give up.
Hancock has long been an advocate for improved services for dyslexic people. In December 2021, the former health secretary called for all children to be evaluated for dyslexia before they leave primary school, calling undiagnosed dyslexia a "quiet scandal."
As he campaigned for support for his Dyslexia Screening and Teacher Training Bill in the House of Commons, Hancock also told MPs that schools need specific training to prevent dyslexic children from falling through the gaps and into a life of crime. He noted a link between untreated dyslexia and unemployment, drug use and school expulsions.
As he urged MPs to back his proposals, he said that the condition could be diagnosed using a mix of "cheap and essay computer-based screening techniques" and trained specialists. He also said that all teachers should be trained to teach dyslexic children since "all teachers are teachers of dyslexic children," and that dyslexia specialists should be available in all primary schools.
Hancock’s Dyslexia Screening Bill received cross-party support from MPs, but it is unlikely to become law without Government support. At the time of writing, the bill has not progressed beyond its second reading in December 202, but a spokesperson for Hancock has previously said: “The second reading of Matt’s Dyslexia Screening and Teacher Training Bill is just days after I’m A Celebrity finishes.”
There’s no doubt Hancock’s appearance on the show could raise the profile of the condition, being beemed into millions of household severy evening. But whether the bill gets more attention where it really matters - in Parliament - remains to be seen. As an independent MP with no whip, Hancock has made things a lot harder for himself.
Is Matt Hancock himself dyslexic?
The backbencher MP said that he was "proud to be dyslexic," but his difficulties with reading and writing were not recognised at school. After "years of frustration," he was diagnosed with dyslexia when he went to university at Oxford, which he characterised as a "lightbulb moment."
Hancock told the Commons: “I was one of the lucky ones who was caught. There are too many children who are not caught early enough. It is a quiet scandal that an estimated four-in-five dyslexic children leave school with their dyslexia unidentified.”
He also said that employers are increasingly valuing dyslexic people’s capacity to "think differently," with a higher possibility of having talents such as visualisation and lateral thinking. He highlighted GCHQ apprentices as being "four times more likely to be dyslexic."
Has Matt Hancock talked about dyslexia on I’m a Celeb yet?
Two weeks into the reality series, the MP has finally opened up about his experience of being diagnosed while at university.
On Sunday (20 November), Hancock was asked by comedians Babatunde Aleshe and Seann Walsh what he had battled with throughout his life, to which he replied, “I can’t dance, I can’t sing and I can’t read very well, very quickly.”
Hancock stated that he "desperately wanted to learn" and discovered that he could do so in arithmetic, but struggled in English. “The moment I was identified as dyslexic at university it was, ‘Ah, so actually I am okay with language, it’s just my brain works differently and I can work on that’,” Hancock said.