Amid the noise, fear, confusion and mourning of last week's understandably Charlie Hebdo-focused news cycle, an important revelation was more or less lost. Spit-flecking pepper spray magnet Jeremy Kyle has refused to rule out a political career. "I've always said I would never say never when it comes to politics," he told the Sun. "There's still more I want to do on television but yes, somewhere down the line, maybe in ten years." He then presumably moved to his solemn your-boyfriend-DID-passionately-kiss-another-woman voice and added, "If it interests you and you think you can make a difference, then why not? It's interesting watching what's happening now as we head towards an election. It is all about PR and spin. People just need to be told the truth."
It's strange to think that Jeremy Kyle might envision himself as some sort of straight arrow peddler of truth, a serious man with a side parting and opinions, and not someone who's a bit too squeamish to say the word "condom" and instead yells "THEN WHY DIDN'T YOU PUT SOMETHING ON THE END OF IT?" directly into the face of men whose penises have, through the process of sex, produced a baby.
So what kind of politician would Kyle make? This is a man whose main job is to aggravate people over sensitive paternity issues and then ferry Graham the Psychologist in to talk them down. He's the ringleader of a sort of dreary circus that tells the audience when to clap and laugh. Sometimes he pulls at the cuffs of his suit trousers so he can pop an especially savoury squat and then give some dude with a skull tattooed all over his face a man-to-man talk. He once got an envelope thrown at his neck. He's not a serious man. He's a sunbed entertainer. Like if Dale Winton yelled "SHUT UP, I'M TALKING" at poor people, or Eamonn Holmes had a thing for licking his phone.
Despite remaining coy about what party he might err on the side of, it's not really hard to imagine what sort of politician Kyle might make: one of those tough-talking, tough stance, no-I-know-what's-better-for-you right-leaning types. He's already come out in the past and said he deplores " benefit scroungers" – as a columnist for the Sun, he was the celebrity face of their "War on Benefit Scroungers" campaign in 2010. In a Q&A with the Guardian the same year, he said his most mortifying moment was when a "rent-a-yob" shouted what a cunt he was out of a van; asked to name something extinct he'd like to bring back to life, he Littlejohn'd "common decency". He once co-chaired a "Getting Britain Back to Work" panel at the Conservative Party Conference alongside George Osborne. Nobody who has aspirations of leading the Green Party to victory writes a book called I'm Only Being Honest... in which he earnestly wonders whether the UK needs a "booze report" to investigate how much benefits claimants spend on alcohol.
For all his preaching about the after-care process that is offered to his guests, and those serious episodes he does where he talks quietly to sick kids, The Jeremy Kyle Show doesn't really help those desperate enough to go on it. In 2008, a man cited the show in court after pointing an air rifle at his wife upon finding out, on-air, that his seven-month-old child wasn't really his. As Popbitch attests, most guests go on the show for the thrill of a week-long stay in a Manchester Travelodge and access to a free bar. Couples debate which one of them gave each other chlamydia first, on national actual television, in exchange for a few rum and cokes and a go on a queen-sized bed. Listen: I like a few rum and cokes and a go on a queen-sized bed as much as anyone, but I can't help but feel that the only person who benefits from The Jeremy Kyle Show is him.
Do we really need another politician who sees the working class in terms of broad strokes, and who pins all the ills of society on the entirely necessary benefits system (a system that is even more necessary since, you know, all the banks fucked entirely up, the minimum wage is still well below what people need to earn to live and the trap of zero-hours contracts often means those going off benefits into work actually end up earning less)? Hot take: no.
There are very few systems in the UK that are geared towards support the poor – they get a bad ride, pinned to the bottom of an inverse blame pyramid where spending on the benefits system is somehow seen as thousands of times more wasteful than the money spent bailing out banks, locked in a broken housing and benefits system, pilloried constantly. Kyle's reaction to this misery parade – with his columns and his books and his serious tone of voice – is to become a leading light of the let's-whip-the-scum-into-shape commentariat; a Hopkins or a Clarkson. He's afforded something akin to hero status among daytime TV watchers, but really all he does is tell them how shit they are under the guise of "tough talk". No understanding, only sanctimony.
Hopefully this is all academic, of course; hopefully it's just a few off-hand comments to the Sunthat won't lead to Kyle actually carving out a viable political career. But there's something more weighty to Kyle saying he wouldn't rule out becoming a politician than there is to a celebrity like Russell Brand pushing himself firmly away; Kyle, with his sensible hair and his greying face and a vibe that says "I always wear gloves when I drive", already fits the mould of the MPs we already have. If anything, he'd just need to wear slightly less flamboyant suits and maybe have an affair. With politics being a legitimately realistic endgame for Kyle – remember, Robert Kilroy-Silk enjoyed a post-misery chat show political career – the best hope is that Psychologist Graham adopts the serene, Clegg-esque sidekick role in Kyle's grimly inevitable 2027 cabinet, or we're all pretty much doomed. NOW GET OFF MY STAGE.
More stuff from VICE: