This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
Every so often, this country stumbles upon a politician, or vaguely political personality, who truly speaks to the nation.
Unlike, say, the Labour leadership contest, they are not elected by ballot, nor are they chosen by the trade unions. They are not people who have been nurtured in the elite greenhouses of Oxford, Cambridge, and Eton.
Instead, this person is elected as unofficial spokesperson for the country using a different set of criteria, which may include, among other things, whether or not they can get a double-page spread in the Sunday Sport about them "romping" on the reg, or if they've got the cachet to record their own, self-funded novelty Christmas single. This person—whether they're Sally Bercow, Lempit Opik, or Neil and Christine Hamilton—will have some, possibly tenuous, link to Westminster and yet be beyond delighted to be on the same guest list as Gloria Hunniford at the launch of a new mobile phone tariff.
And for 2015, or at least summer 2015, our zenith of tabloid-flavored politics comes in the form of Karen Danczuk.
A former Labour councillor—married to and salaciously separated from Labour MP for Rochdale, Simon Danczuk—Karen came to the country's attention when she started posting selfies featuring her rigorously St. Tropezed whammers on Twitter in 2014. She now goes by the self-appointed title "Queen of the Selfie."
As any novelty political couple worth their salt will know, their PG-rated personal life should completely overshadow their work. Karen and Simon have excelled at this. There have been rumors—which have all been "leaked" by "sources"—of "affairs" with shadowy "personal trainers" or "salesmen," and of Karen being subsequently "sacked" as her husband's secretary.
Both Simon and Karen have courted publicity—all the while trying their best to look like people who aren't courting publicity—speaking to everyone from the Sunday Times to Channel 5 News. Their current "split" hinges on some alleged affair Karen's supposed to have had. She denies having one.
Much like Neil and Christine Hamilton who came before them, the Danczuks don't appear to care if they're embarrassing themselves, or anyone else. While the Hamiltons did the done thing in the early noughties by going on reality shows and recording forgettable World Cup single "England Are Jolly Dee," the Danczuks deal in the modern trade of human tragedy and conflict. Much like a dad having a screaming breakdown in the bacon aisle, the couple are acting out their breakup in public.
For context, the Sun runs at least one story on them almost every day, and the Mail and the Mirror aren't far behind. Channel 5 recently dedicated eight-and-a-half minutes to grilling Karen about the alleged affair. That's eight-and-a-half minutes of Karen sighing about being "in the public eye" and saying "I am human" and swishing her Pantene-worthy hair about her serious business-woman-jacketed shoulders. When she's not on TV, Karen's on Twitter, reminding everyone that she's still in the press by tweeting that she hasn't spoken to the press.
However paralyzingly predictable the whole thing could be, there's something in Karen's vanity and naked ambition and lack of cynicism and beautiful cow eyes that's utterly endearing. Beguiling, even. She's Rochdale's answer to Princess Diana, Westminster's Madame Bovary. She comes across as a woman who just wants to be special.
Using the lexicon of your Katie Prices or Luisa Zissmans, Karen has a fondness for discussing vague business ventures and making sure everybody knows she's strong and inspirational on Twitter. Her tweets are all signed off "KD" so we know she wrote them herself.
Most recently, Karen was ingeniously flogging busty selfies on eBay that she'd had printed and then sprayed with Chanel perfume. When questioned about whether it was really appropriate for an elected councillor to sell pictures of her breasts (and face), she said: "I'm a businesswoman, it's what we do."
Much of what Karen is reported to have said in written media gets there via a mysterious "source." Whether there really is a mole embedded deep within the Danczuk family, or a network of spies tapping the couple's phones, we may never know. But whoever it is, they have a certain way with dramatic phrasing.
"She loves sending saucy snaps and was well flirty and suggestive in her texts. One time she stripped to a bra on her bed and he couldn't believe his luck. The word 'exhibitionist' doesn't do her justice," a "spy" told the Mail when the allegations emerged of her affair with personal trainer, Ben Bate.
"Everyone knows Karen is famous for her selfies but she's never done a topless one—so you can imagine how this bloke felt when she whipped off her bra just for him! It's a bit of a collector's item."
Here are some examples of collector's items: Elvis's wigs. Marilyn's bras. Michael Jackson's Pez dispensers. A grainy iPhone picture of Karen's boring nipples is not one. It's just not.
But herein lies what is so special about Karen—she's resolutely ordinary. Her nipples are no more intriguing than yours or mine. Forget your otherworldly Karlie Klosses or Miranda Kerrs—Karen plays into the readers' wives market, perhaps proving that being pretty and having a gung-ho, end-of-the-pier attitude towards your tits is absolutely enough to capture people's sort-of interest. Either way, if you've got enough cleavage to keep £2 in 20 pence pieces [$3 in quarters] in your bra without noticing, you've got a shot at making the Express. You've got a shot at being given eight-and-a-half minutes of airtime on Channel 5 News with Matt Barbet squinting at you in bafflement about what you're even doing on his show.
If politics are really about people and personality, then surely it's kind of brilliant to have people who—unlike, say, Jeremy Corbyn—are so like the people you're stuck in an office with for eight hours a day. Or who resemble your cousins that have gone a bit off the rails but you see once every few years at reunions. If the Danczuks can remind anybody that politicians are just as vainglorious and absurd as anybody else, if not more so, the sooner we can turn Westminster coverage into OK! Magazine.
As for Karen, she embodies our insecurities and shortcomings in a way that is utterly compelling. Any woman who has ever sent a nude Snapchat at 3AM can relate to Karen. Anybody who has ever tried, and failed, to use their breasts to get a free drink. Anybody who wasn't quite sure what might make them stand out a bit. Anyone who secretly wants to be a little bit famous.
And, you know, at least she's not Katie Hopkins.