Politics

Will Trump win? Are the Tories finished? The man behind Jonathan Pie predicts politics in 2024

Tom Walker, the man behind ranting and raging news reporter Jonathan Pie, gives us his predictions on how a big year for politics will play out

Jonathan Pie promo shot for heroes and villains tour

Tom Walker's comic creation Jonathan Pie has been better at attracted followers than some politicians. Image: Supplied

If you’ve sworn in frustration at the heroes and villains of politics over the past year – at this point who hasn’t? – chances are Jonathan Pie has connected with you.

The comedy character has become a sensation through giving us a peek behind the scenes at what the political reporters really think and say when the camera stops rolling.

He’s been more effective at attracting supporters than Rishi Sunak too. For some of Pie’s 1.7 million Facebook followers, the foul-mouth rants are likely to be more of a way into politics than the nightly news, Question Time or Newsnight.

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Pie is going on tour in early 2024 with his Heroes and Villains show. It’s going to be a big year for politics with a US election on the cards as well as a general election, assuming it is not held at its latest possible point in January 2025. 

So, the Big Issue invited the man who writes and performs Pie’s infamous rants, Tom Walker, into our HQ to chew over the big political moments of 2023 and look forward to the year ahead.

The political heroes and villains in 2023

When it comes to Westminster’s pantomime villains in 2023, only one politician could come out on top.

In his rant about former home secretary Suella Braverman’s widely condemned comments regarding homelessness, Pie’s assessment is damning: “It won’t be long until she’s banning the Big Issue for being an extremist publication.”

“Suella Braverman has had a good year, hasn’t she?” says Walker. “I mean she’s definitely one of the most villainous. It’s not even dog whistling when you’re saying homeless people choose to be there. When you’re saying multiculturalism has failed, that’s not actually just a dog whistle to the far right. That is the far right.

“I’ve always been really, really careful not to hurl the words ‘far-right Nazi’ at people who vote differently or have different political affiliations to me. But Suella Braverman, she’s definitely a top villain.”

As for heroes? Walker is stumped: “There aren’t many.”

The general election

Jonathan Pie’s rise in popularity has come entirely under Tory rule. The character made his debut in 2015 and captured attention as Brexit took hold and changed Britain and British politics forever.

That Tory rule is due to an end at the election, according to Walker. While that’s not exactly a huge leap given the current 17-point gap between leaders Labour and the Tories in Ipsos Mori’s opinion polls, Walker reckons it’ll be closer than you may think.

“I think it will be a rout for the Tories. But anything can happen,” says Walker. “I think generally the British public, even if you are an actual Tory voter, have a reasonable sense of fair play. I actually think that your natural, traditional Tory voter – I’m not talking about rabid Brexiteers – I think even they are a little bit disgusted by some of the rhetoric that’s coming out and the obvious incompetence of the Truss era. 

“Let’s be honest, I don’t think many people are going to be voting for Starmer, I think they’re voting against the Tories. But I think that is a reasonable reason to go into a voting booth and put your cross next to whoever is most likely to beat them because they have demonstrated that they are unfit for office, whereas Starmer hasn’t had a chance to demonstrate that yet.”

While Jonathan Pie might be riffing on BBC reporters as a satirical act, his shows don’t have to adhere to the same balance as the Beeb.

Walker admitted that there is a “fair amount of Tory bashing” in Pie shows – the latest sees Pie lay out his hypothesis that Sunak is the worst prime minister in his lifetime in forensic detail after all.

For Heroes and Villains, Walker pondered putting Keir Starmer square in his sights until the magnitude of the potential power shift in Downing Street stopped him in his tracks. 

“If the polls are correct in predicting a Tory wipeout then the Tories might not be in power for at least a decade. I’m 45 so they might not be in power until I’m approaching 60, which is terrifying,” says Walker.

“I’m not sure I’ll be Jonathan Pie in 10 years’ time so this might be my last-ever chance to have a go. I was thinking I should have a bit more of a go at Labour and where they’re at or why Starmer’s not a great candidate.

“I just thought, “Fuck it, this is my last chance to really stick the boot in and look back at over 14 years of utter chaos.”

The US election

Jonathan Pie’s rise has, bizarrely, gone hand-in-tiny hand with Donald Trump’s.

Back when Trump stunned the world and signed us all up for four years of despair with his 2016 election win, Pie was the one who predicted it, sort of. It turbocharged his notoriety.

“It was interesting because it was about a week before the election and I did a piece and just at the end of the piece the producer had said, “Who do you think’s going to win?”. I just thought it would be interesting if Pie went: “I reckon it’s going to be Trump”,” says Walker.

“The next week it was an interesting place to start because Pie was going, “I told you, I told you”. Pie’s thesis was it was the left that lost, it’s not the right that won it. At the time that got me into a huge amount of trouble. I think because lefties can’t bear being told that they might have made a mistake.”

The Trump connection continued in 2021 when Donald Trump Jr shared a Jonathan Pie rant about cancel culture on Twitter, praising “one of the most real videos I’ve seen talking about the insanity of modern cancel culture and the stupidity of our society today”. 

“I guess he’s a reporter,” added Trump Jr, without a hint of irony.

So fast forward to 2024 and can it happen again?

“I think he’s going to win this time around because I think President Biden is a terrible, terrible candidate. I think Trump will win,” says Walker.

“With Biden, you can’t not watch him and think your brain functions are slowing down. I mean, he’s dangerous in that respect. They are both supremely unfit to be in the Oval Office for very different reasons

“I hope Biden wins. I really do. There’s a line in the new show that the first time round Trump didn’t think he’d win. The second time round, he pretended to win. And this time around he has to win or he’ll spend the rest of his life behind bars. That makes him really dangerous, much more dangerous than he was the first time.”

Why Jonahtan Pie works and what would he do in politics

As personality has trumped policy and politics have lurched from crisis to scandal and scandal to crisis, Pie’s rants have captured the feeling of rage and despair.

Whether it be describing street homelessness as a “lifestyle choice”, the endless attempts to fly asylum seekers to Rwanda or yet another ministerial reshuffle, Pie’s annoyed and he knows you are too.

It’s never been the quest to get more people engaged in politics, reckons Walker. But the catharsis in the act has meant it has endured.

“I’ve got this wonderful thing in my life where I can write it down, vent it, put it out and actually for me the Suella Braverman thing was gone. I was able to articulate what I thought in this swearing man I play,” he says.

“So there’s a catharsis in it for me but I am aware that’s why it’s popular – there’s a catharsis in it for the audience. They’ve been going round all weekend: “God I hate her, God I hate him. God I can’t bear that person”. Then, three days later, they put this video on and it’s three minutes of this person and people are going: “That’s what I want to say.” That’s his venting for me.”

But how would Pie fare if he made the switch from ‘journalism’ into politics? About as well as a lettuce, unfortunately.

“He’s a proper old school leftie but he’s a bit more left than I am,” says Walker. “He would sell off Buckingham Palace, tax billionaires at 60% and he’d last less time than Liz Truss. He would end homelessness tomorrow but he wouldn’t last long enough in No.10 to implement it.”

Jonathan Pie: Heroes & Villains’ runs from 23rd January-24th March 2024. Tickets at jonathanpie.com.

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