DUBBED raunchy, revealing and the boob-baring Westminster wag, Karen Danczuk’s critics haven’t held back in their contempt for the former Labour party councillor from Manchester.
“Become famous for your talent. Not your talent for selfie promotion. Especially if it involves your bits,” one scathing journalist wrote, while Loose Women panellist Janet Street Porter questioned how the mum-of-two could ever be an appropriate role model for young women.
Not one to back away from criticism Danczuk has never been afraid to lock horns with those who disapprove of her provocative selfies.
And having amassed 70,000 followers on Twitter, the 33-year-old lays claim to a loyal fan base on social media despite the odd spat along the way.
As the former wife of MP Simon Danczuk, who is currently suspended from the Labour Party, she says the negativity she’s encountered fuels her passions further.
“It doesn’t deflate me at all, it spurs me on to keep working,” she says. “I do go for it, and I think that’s where I’ve been quite successful in establishing myself. 99 per cent of them are make-up free but of course in the selfies that make the news I’m dolled up.”
'I'm more at home in a pair of wellies than a party dress'
She claims to be more at home in a pair of wellies than as the glamour puss the press often portray her as.
“I don’t spend my time putting make up on in the morning, it’s not really a priority of mine,” she says.
“I do my own nails, I don’t go to pamper salons. I think people are slowly starting to realise who I am. I’m just a normal girl. I’m a very basic person. I like the basic things in life.
“If I was a story coming from a nice middle class family with a perfect upbringing I’d be hailed a hero for achieving what I’ve achieved,” she adds.
“But because I do come from a challenging background, a working class family, I’ve never been to university, it was almost snobbery.”
She describes herself as a political geek, TV personality, radio host, writer and ambassador on Twitter, which she says she joined reluctantly about five years ago.
At the time, and as the youngest councillor in Rochdale Council, she recalls being encouraged to set up an account so that she could help the party connect with younger people.
“I was a late starter,” she says. “But then when I saw the impact it was actually having, and that younger people were engaging in politics, I thought we need to use this more.”
Her first tweet was sent just months after marrying MP Simon in the summer of 2012.
There was no revealing picture - just a simple message sent at 6.38pm on November 21 that read ‘#PhilipBurke1’.
Describing herself as a normal girl in politics, she says she was stunned by the nastiness she encountered online.
“I was a bit shocked at first by some of the comments I received,” she admits. “I don’t dress in a party dress to go to a council meeting. I dress up on a Friday night and the two shouldn’t cross paths.
"But then you realise they’re just trolls and they’ll troll anyone, it could be me, it could be Hillary Clinton. That’s their hobby, just to troll people.”
Musing further on why she has faced such harsh judgement, she adds: “In some ways I’m not sure if some people just don’t like the drive that I’ve got. Whether they don’t like the impact I’ve had on politics, being so young.
“It just comes down to the fact that the papers quoted ‘she’s got boobs and brains’ and a lot of people don’t like that.
“They see it as ‘Karen’s got the whole package, she’s got brains, she’s got the boobs, she’s had it easy’. I haven’t had it easy, I’ve had to work hard.”
'Growing up I wanted to escape what was at home'
Life growing up, she says, wasn’t plain sailing.
Describing herself as a quiet child, she recalls being bullied at school and last year spoke about how she was sexually abused from the age of six, allegations which are being investigated by Great Manchester Police.
“I didn’t come out with the best qualifications at school,” she says. “School was more survival. I was bullied at school.”
Her parents then separated when she was nine – something she says made for a difficult home life.
“If anything I just wanted to escape what was at home,” she says. “It’s disappointment now when I look back but what I now do, the reason I became a councillor, was purely for that, to get the message out there to normal people – we can’t forget kids.
“If you’ve got a really disruptive kid, who’ll be on every social services book, you can imagine that everyone will know about him.
“But if you’ve got the kid that’s had a really difficult home life and they’re quiet, they just get lost in the system, the teachers have no concerns.
"It’s ‘they’re just quiet in the corner, they’re not naughty, so nothing’s wrong’. And that’s very much the way it was with me – I was just fed through.”
As a single mum of two boys – Milton who’s eight and six-year-old Morris, she’s adamant history won’t repeat itself with her own family, despite her split from husband Simon last year.
She describes childhood holidays to Ireland visiting her Irish father Martin Burke's family in Galway as restorative.
“My fortunes could have been so different, if I had been brought up in Ireland who knows what could have happened,” she says. “My life could have been so different.”
One of five children she is also a practising Catholic - crediting the Church with helping her through painful times.
“I go to church every week,” she says. “I was brought up an Irish Catholic. If you genuinely have had a difficult upbringing, if you’re strongminded, which I am – you’ve got two ways of living your life.
"Be defined by your past or define your future and I’m very much I’ll define my future.”
She has also spoken out on Twitter about suffering from depression.
“Sorry for the quietness, I’m not ashamed to admit my depression reared its ugly head so needed to address. Feel stronger with each day,” she wrote on May 25.
“Thanks for your tweets. Means so much to me. Suffered with depression on/off for years. It’s a minor set-back.”
'If I'd been brought up in Ireland, life could have been different'
The Burke family’s journey to Britain began when Karen’s grandparents left Ireland for the north west of England, eventually settling in the Collyhurst area of inner city Manchester.
“They fell in love with Manchester,” Karen says. “There’s quite a strong Irish community in Manchester and they ended up running pubs in the Irish community and got established here.
“My dad’s always been really proud to be Irish, always had his Irish passport out at every opportunity,” she jokes. “His family came from Galway, Cork, but very much the farming side of it.”
She recalls making her first trip to Tuam aged 11. It was a place that felt completely alien to the young English city girl.
“We always stayed on the farm and it was very lovely,” she says. “But the local shops, for instance...we’d walk and I don’t know how long it would take us, looking back, but it was literally half a shop, have a funeral home, half a pub.
"So I can buy a pint of lager here, get me bread and sort my funeral out all in one,” she jokes. “I was fascinated. I fell in love with it.
“When we’d wake up at home the heating would be on, on the farm you’d have to get up and get the turf and keep topping it up. It was so different, even when you went to cook your food.
"I remember jacket potatoes, you’d have to put them in tin foil in the morning for them to be done by tea time.
“One morning we woke up and there was a cow’s face in the window. It gave me a right fright, this cow’s head literally through the window. I’d never experienced that before, that whole way of life.”
'Moving into a council bedsit at the age of 18 changed my life'
But it was aged 18 that Karen says her life really began to turn around. Free from the confines of her family, she was finally able to make her own decisions.
She took a job in Asda and got involved with the local Labour party.
“I ended up, it was my choice, in a council bedsit, and from that moment on, that’s what kind of changed my life, my fortunes,” she says.
“I got a little job and then from that job I thought I’m going to go back to college.
“I felt that there was a lot of people in my situation, even if they haven’t gone through what I’ve gone through.
"Working class, they get forgotten about and they don’t know much about politics,” she says.
“I wanted to be that voice that said ‘actually you might not work, you might work a day a week but you’re entitled to understand politics’. That’s what got me involved.”
Labour was, perhaps, a natural choice for the teenager - her father Martin was already a supporter.
Born May 31, 1983, Karen Burke came kicking and screaming into the world at a time when Margaret Thatcher was re-elected to serve a second term as Prime Minister.
'There's a lot of snobbery around a working class girl doing well'
Describing her introduction to the cut and thrust of politics, Karen says: “It was only challenging at first because back then I was very young by a good 20 years.
"It was a bit patronising. I think they thought it “might just be a bit of a hobby.”
"Because I come from a challenging background, a working class family, I’ve never been to university, it was almost snobbery.
“It taught me everything I needed to know. How to chair meetings, seeing how a collective group of people coming together can make a change, I’d never been exposed to anything like that.
"It was quite inspiring for me,” she adds. “I had to prove my worth, deliver thousands of leaflets in the town trying to get the message out there, on polling day I’d sit on the door all day and take numbers.”
By 24 she had become the youngest president in Britain of a Labour club.
“That was quite a special time for me. All those years listening to other people chairing meetings and now I got to chair my own.”
Having stepped down as a councillor last year – although she won’t rule out a return to politics - Karen has spent the last 12 months trying to carve out a media and TV career, splitting her week between Manchester and London.
She’s starring in Bear Grylls’ The Island this autumn as part of a celebrity special in aid of Stand Up To Cancer.
She also ran the London Marathon in April (she says finishing the gruelling 26.5mile course in 6hrs 24minutes was a sheer miracle due to dodgy knees and the fact she didn’t train) to raise money for Balls to Cancer - a charity that raises awareness of testicular cancer.
“I miss the hands on approach to politics but I do a lot in reviewing the news, on Sky News, on radio – it’s quite nice being able to talk cross party politics, to get the message of politics out there.
"It allows me more freedom because I can talk without being too party line on the matter,” she says.
“I do miss it, and I’ll always have an active role in politics. I’m still a member of the Labour Party.”
'I won't take on a challenge if I think I'm going to fail'
Her philosophy in life is to focus on the positives.
“I’m not a bitter person,” she says, adding that for the first time in life she has no idea what’s next.
“It’s the first time in my life where I don’t have a plan, I’ve always had a plan,” she says.
“Even at 18 I was like I’m going to work, then college...so I don’t have a plan but it’s quite nice.
“Right now it’s quite liberating because I’ve had such an intense 14 years establishing my life. Now I feel almost lucky, which is ironic with my childhood, that I can take that time.
“I’ve got my boys, my home and a really good media career. Maybe I should worry I’m not worrying,” she laughs.
She believes in the power of hope.
“If anyone just has that tiny little bit of hope, even if they can only hold it with one finger, they should hold it and keep going,” she says.
“Because seriously you can give up and you can end up in a completely different environment or you can just hold on. I genuinely do believe that if you want something bad enough you can get it.
“I don’t fail and that’s my biggest thing. I’ve not failed at anything yet in life and I would never take on a challenge if I thought I wouldn’t be able to see it through.”
For Karen Danczuk determination and believing things will work out are the key to success... that and a strategic selfie or two.
Karen Danczuk on...
Standing for Mayor of Greater Manchester
(The bookies have her at 100/1 alongside the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Noel Gallagher.)
“I would never rule out going for it.
"Greater Manchester Mayor should be from that area in my opinion.
"It also shouldn’t be just men going for it.
"Attitudes need to change about macho men automatically having the right.”
“I think Labour are struggling at the moment but I think a few of the big parties are struggling.
"Jeremy is very well-liked, he’s had a very good swing towards him.
"I don’t agree with his politics necessarily but he stands by what he believes in so I respect him for that.
"He’s not the type of person who now he’s leader shies away from what he believes in and credit to him for doing that. He’s got a tough challenge.
"People are a little sick of mainstream parties – you had the Panama Papers with the Conservatives, you’ve got this Zionist thing at the moment with Jeremy, you’ve got the EU referendum where everyone thinks if we leave the EU we’ll have no immigration.
"I respect Jeremy, he’s standing tall and that’s exactly what I’ve done and touch wood it’s paying off.”
Standing as councillor for Heywood & Middleton
“I’m in talks about standing for that area. Again, I believe it needs a local person who knows the needs and people from that area. Not a high-flyer who doesn’t live or know the area.”
"I love the outdoors, I spend a lot of time walking. I love the Lake District.
"I’m very outdoorsy now. My youngest Morris plays football so we’re always kicking a football around.
I’m also a Man Utd fan - fortunes will turn with Mourinho or I could be the next Karren Brady for them!”
Clarification: Karen Dunczuk is one of five children and the daughter of Martin, not Michael Burke.