In late August 2018 Ezra Levant – owner of Canadian based “Rebel Media” – announced to a waiting world that he had organized a cruise. The boat trip would give fans from across the Globe a chance to rub shoulders “with some of our most interesting Rebel personalities” as they cruised along “the Danube River, sailing from Germany, through Austria, to Slovakia and ending in beautiful Budapest, Hungary.” But who were these ‘interesting Rebel personalities?’ Step forward one Stephen Yaxley Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson) and former Apprentice star Katie Hopkins. There was also Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum but Dan was very much the “non Goss Bros member” in this jaunt and as such can be safely edited from the narrative.
The 68 places on the trip didn’t come cheap. A single standard berth on the Alt-right Love Boat started at a hefty $7,000 (US dollars) excluding transfer fees. With doubles at $3,590 per person and 68 cabins this was clearly going to be something of a money spinner for Mr Levant and his star attractions. If he could sell enough tickets. Because if you are asking yourself whether the average Tommy Robinson fan would be able to fork out eight or nine grand (with transfers and spending money) on a week-long boat trip through Central Europe just to spend time with their diminutive hero – well me too. I think of little else.
But perhaps it wasn’t about Tommy. Perhaps Lord Sugar’s former sparring partner Katie Hopkins would be the big draw – because fun, feisty Katie Hopkins is undoubtedly the most renowned former contestant (on this side of The Atlantic at least) of the long running show and a bit of a celeb.
Hopkins famously didn’t win The Apprentice. She was smart enough to realise, in what were the early days of reality TV, that the real prize was not going off to work for Sir Alan, selling shitty telephones in some shitty warehouse in Loughton – but fame.
And so, after graduating from Series 3 she became a professional outrage machine. Her persona was much the same as the one she had honed on the show. Straight talking, no nonsense, prepared to call fat people fat and desperate people ‘cockroaches.’ For a decade she moved from Big Brother sofa to Morning TV sofa and the strategy worked. She got a column in the Sun and then one at the Mail Online and eventually landed her own show on LBC. Those last gigs would have been very lucrative work and much better paid than anything she would have gained from the ‘apprenticeship.’ Hopkins’ Celebrity Big Brother fee was a reported £400k plus – there were book deals and other assorted TV work.
By early 2017 she was probably one of the best paid freelance journalists in Britain. And she wasn’t even a journalist.
But there was a problem. As her notoriety grew Katie Hopkins’ increasingly outrageous pronouncements were obliged to grow with it. She flew ever closer to the Sun. She seemed increasingly chaotic and out of control and this was especially clear on Twitter, where she busied herself dog whistling to her herd of followers.
If you ride a tiger for money, you are obliged to ride it in ever more daring ways. But one day the thrill of the spectacle wears off – the crowds begin to drift away – and when you step down – you are eaten.
After the horrific suicide bombing in Manchester – that left that city shaking, this country mourning, twenty three mostly young lives lost and many dozens injured – she felt emboldened enough by the platform she had been given and the frenzy of her 800k followers to suggest that a ‘final solution’ was needed. This, finally, was the tipping point and she was dropped like a hot potato by both LBC and Mail Online.
At around the same time, Hopkins lost a costly libel case brought by food writer Jack Monroe.
With options shrinking and the mortgage payments racking up, she slinked off to Rebel Media and whatever they offered her it wasn’t close to what she was getting before. Hopkins was obliged to sell her family home and was brought close to bankruptcy. But still – she didn’t stop. It only seemed to encourage her. Worse – by throwing her lot in with the far right fringes rather than taking a step back and indulging in a little mea culpa – she toxified her brand even further and it seems unlikely that she will be able to crawl back into the mainstream any time soon.
With her options dwindling and bank balance shrinking the cruise must have seemed like a financial lifeline. But all of that now is a matter of speculation because earlier this week Levant announced that it was off.
“Regrettably the cruise has been cancelled” potential passengers were informed, “the company panicked and claimed there was a security risk…… We hope to come up with another platform that cannot be sabotaged by the leftist strategy of “de-platforming” conservatives including through the Antifa tactic of violence.”
This leaves Katie Hopkins with a problem – she has burned a lot of bridges and now she is stuck on a tiny platform with Ezra Levant which I for one would not wish on anybody.
It would be very easy at this point to laugh. Heartily. But I find myself feeling well if not sorry then almost sorry for her and most certainly for her children. Hopkins – like Trump – is a product of the false reality of so called reality TV. She has been obliged to play the part so long that she has become the Monster the Series 3 producers obviously set her up to be. Her downfall is her fault – and hers alone but there is perhaps a lesson to be learned in this very 21st century morality tale of greed, hubris and not knowing when to shut up.
Series 14 contestants take note.