Nadine Dorries has explained her decision to take part in I’m A Celebrity, saying it was a ‘publicity gift’ and a way of communicating with 16 million people.

The Tory MP justified her decision in a column on the Conservativehome website, arguing that ‘more people watch the X Factor final than voted in the general election’, so the realm of reality TV is ‘where politicians need to be too’.

Nadine said that while she may have to eat a kangaroo’s testicle she may also have the chance to talk about abortion time limits, or to ‘big up Boris’.

The MP has drawn widespread criticism for swapping her parliamentary duties for the Australian reality TV jungle, and has been suspended by her party while she is away. In her column the member for Mid-Bedfordshire said she would donate her MP’s salary during her time on the programme to children’s charities in her constituency.

Prime Minister David Cameron has backed the decision by Chief Whip Sir George Young to suspend her and said Nadine had not informed him she was taking part in the ITV show.

But she insisted in her column – which she submitted a week ago and was published on Sunday – that she had told the Whips Office she would be away for up to a month.

She wrote: “Do people understand why I am in a jungle, eating only three handfuls of rice a day with a few beans thrown in? I think many may have guessed that I am a bit of an anti-politics politician… I believe that we politicians need to spend less time talking to each other and more time talking to people.”

She continued: “An audience of 16 million people for the first and last show and 12 million per show is a very large audience. In the world of messaging, it’s huge. It would have been mad to have refused… The majority of people don’t look to Westminster and they don’t buy newspapers, as the distribution figures show us. They do however surf the net, watch popular TV and engage with reality shows. If that is where 16 million people are, it’s where politicians need to be too.”

She added: “MPs are not popular and so I don’t expect to be in the jungle for very long, but I hope I can do something to make some people think again. That some of us politicians come from very normal backgrounds and went into politics for reasons of deep belief and principle.”

And in a typically acerbic parting shot, she said: “Whilst the half term recess is under way, I will be working with rats and snakes in a jungle. It’s not really very different from Westminster after all.”