Ex-MP Simon Danczuk is the man of my dreams: Beauty therapist, 28, from Rwanda prepares to marry the Labour politician, 56, whose career was ended after he sexted a teenager
- Simon Danczuk, 56, to marry 28-year-old beauty therapist Claudine Uwamahoro
- Politician’s career came crashing down when he sent sexual texts to 17-year-old
- Couple live 6,000 miles away and have spent three weeks physically together
- Ex-Labour MP Danczuk once admitted younger women were his ‘Achilles heel’
When Simon Danczuk’s 14-year-old son Milton learned that his dad was planning to get married again, he cited an old English idiom.
‘He said hopefully the third time’s a charm,’ says Simon.
Simon must certainly hope so.
Already the veteran of two marriages which ended in a blaze of headlines, last week it emerged that the 56-year-old is preparing to walk down the aisle with 28-year-old Rwandan beauty therapist Claudine Uwamahoro.
It is not, on paper, an obvious match, given that Claudine is nearly three decades younger than Simon and wilfully disinterested in politics, while Simon remains keenly invested in parliamentary matters despite his political career ending in ignominy when it emerged he had sent sexual texts to a 17-year-old girl while serving as a Labour MP.
There’s also the small matter of distance: Claudine lives in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, 6,000 miles away from Simon’s London home and the house he also has in his former constituency, Rochdale, to which he returns most weekends.
This hitch means that the couple, who met in March, have spent only three weeks in each other’s physical company, their relationship largely unfolding over FaceTime or Zoom.
Ex-MP Simon Danczuk, 56, is due to marry 28-year-old beauty therapist Claudine Uwamahoro (pictured together)
Preparations are now under way for a large-scale wedding in Kigali in late July next year
But this has not stopped the lovestruck duo from forging ahead with wedding plans, as I discover when I rendezvous with them — Claudine beaming in over Zoom on Simon’s computer — at his neat Westminster flat for their first interview as a couple.
Indeed, preparations are now under way for a large-scale wedding in Kigali in late July next year — Claudine in traditional Rwandan dress — followed by a church ceremony in the UK the following month.
‘She’s the woman of my dreams,’ Simon declares. ‘She’s perfect. I just wish I had met her earlier.’
The sentiment is shared by his new fiancee, who is talking to us from a cafe near her Rwandan apartment and does not stop smiling for the duration of our chat. ‘He’s the man of my dreams too,’ she beams. ‘I am just so excited to marry and share our future.’
Simon has been largely absent from the headlines in recent years, but the recent news of his latest nuptials is inarguably another colourful chapter in the life of a man who first came to prominence when elected as MP for Rochdale 12 years ago.
He held the office until 2017 and was lauded for his campaign to expose historical child abuse at Westminster, in particular sexual abuse committed by Cyril Smith, former Liberal Rochdale MP.
Simon’s rigorous investigation significantly contributed to the decision by the Government to set up the Independent Enquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in 2015.
Unfortunately, however, it is for his flamboyant personal life that Simon is most remembered.
His three-year union to ‘selfie queen’ Karen Burke (pictured), so named because of her love of posting eye-popping pictures of her cleavage on social media, ended amid acrimony in 2015 when it was reported he had had sex with a 22-year-old woman in his constituency office
His ten-year marriage to first wife Sonia Rossington, mother to his eldest children George 25, and 20-year-old Mary, ended in a flurry of accusations that he ‘bullied’ her into sex — allegations he has always vehemently denied.
His three-year union to ‘selfie queen’ Karen Burke, so named because of her love of posting eye-popping pictures of her cleavage on social media, ended amid acrimony in 2015 when it was reported he had had sex with a 22-year-old woman in his constituency office.
In the wake of their split, Simon was then revealed to have sent texts to a 17-year-old — who had first contacted him asking for a job — in which he proclaimed he was ‘horny’ and asked if she wanted a ‘spanking’.
Once made public, the exchange led to his suspension from the Labour party.
Simon later said that younger women were his ‘Achilles heel’ and in 2016 revealed he was undergoing counselling for sex addiction.
And yet here we are, six years on — following a 2017 broken engagement to care worker Charlene Meade, herself 19 years his junior — with another young woman.
Against this backdrop, you might be forgiven for summoning another idiom to mind: no fool like an old fool.
That’s not how the undeniably affable Simon sees it, of course. Now making a comfortable living as a business consultant and writing his first novel, he insists life has entered a ‘nice and steady’ era in recent years. ‘It all feels a bit like a bad dream now,’ he says of those torrid months in 2015 and 2016. ‘Life is much calmer.’
His relationship with Karen, 39, is certainly on amicable terms, in stark contrast to the time she claimed he’d attacked her during a row at a Spanish holiday apartment in 2016. Simon denied any violence and, although Karen called the police, she then dropped the case.
Simon (pictured) remains keenly invested in parliamentary matters despite his political career ending in ignominy when it emerged he had sent sexual texts to a 17-year-old girl while serving as a Labour MP
While she has custody of their two sons, they spend weekends with Simon when he returns north.
‘I think time is helpful, isn’t it?’ he says of these calmer seas. ‘We put the children first, so that’s the priority. She’s been a good mum; I’ll give her credit for that.’
His youngest sons, aged 14 and 12, have spoken to Claudine several times on Zoom and are set to meet their future stepmother for the first time next month. ‘They’re coming with me to Kigali on Boxing Day for a week,’ he reveals.
Claudine has already hit it off with the boys (who, of course, are closer to her in age than her fiance): the second of seven children, she says having ‘little brothers’ makes it easy.
‘I know what boys are like. I like them, and I think we have a good relationship so far,’ she says.
The same cannot be said for Simon’s relationship with his eldest children. ‘It’s non-existent,’ he says, his unhappiness evident. ‘It’s incredibly sad as we used to be very close.’
It’s certainly a complex romantic CV, although Simon maintains that aside from the odd date or two, he has been largely single since 2017 — that is until March, when he flew to Kigali on a business trip and was introduced to Claudine through a mutual friend at a restaurant.
‘She was quite quiet when I first met her, absorbing everything that was being said,’ he recalls. ‘I thought she was a beautiful person but initially she wasn’t an easy person to chat to as she was very much in listening mode and perhaps weighing me up.’
Simon later said that younger women were his ‘Achilles heel’ and in 2016 revealed he was undergoing counselling for sex addiction. And yet here we are, six years on — following a 2017 broken engagement to care worker Charlene Meade (pictured with Simon), herself 19 years his junior — with another young woman
Claudine, who has indeed been listening patiently as we navigate Simon’s complex history, weighs in.
‘I found him a very interesting person, and I wanted to keep the connection,’ she says. ‘The next day we went to dinner, and I enjoyed his company. And it went from there.’
After learning he was a former politician, Claudine admits that once Simon had returned to the UK she undertook some internet research in her Kigali apartment.
A lesser person might be frightened off when confronted with headlines like ‘Sex text shame of scandal-hit MP’ — but not Claudine. ‘I thought: ‘I’m not going to believe what the media say until I find out for myself, because to me so far he’s a nice person,’ ‘ she recalls.
‘We started calling each other several times every day,’ she says. ‘At first we said ‘let’s build a friendship’, and then, by the end of March, we found ourselves in a serious relationship.’
It was at this point that Simon came clean about his past. ‘After we got into a serious relationship, he started to tell me what he has been through with the ex-wives, everything,’ she says.
That includes those sexy texts. What on earth must Claudine — who strikes one as an innocent soul — have made of them?
‘I think it could happen to any man, so I tried to understand,’ she says loyally. ‘I think it’s normal that people mess up. There is this person out there in the media, and there’s this Simon I know, and he is completely different.’
While hardly expansive about the qualities that attracted her to Simon, Claudine says simply: ‘He’s a kind, interesting man, and I enjoy his company.’
The couple next met when Simon returned for another visit in May. He proposed during his third visit two weeks ago, getting down on bended knee in his hotel suite.
His relationship with Karen, 39, is certainly on amicable terms, in stark contrast to the time she claimed he’d attacked her during a row at a Spanish holiday apartment in 2016.
While others might be sceptical about saying ‘yes’ so soon to a man with such a tempestuous history, Claudine had no reservations. ‘It wasn’t a surprise because we talked every day, I was in love, he was in love,’ she says of the moment.
‘There are some myths around that story [the sexting scandal] too,’ Simon interjects. ‘I never met the girl in question, and I had been in contact with her for quite some time having just some pleasant conversations.
‘Then she sent me sexual messages and, very late at night on two evenings when I was very drunk, I responded with probably, quite literally, three or four words that were of a sexual nature, out of 10,000 words. And anybody who objectively read all the messages — as Greater Manchester Police did — would conclude I had done nothing wrong.’
Either way, those messages helped bring about the end of Simon’s political career, although he believes there are some misconceptions around this as well.
‘Yes, I was suspended but the real reason I didn’t stand for Labour in 2017 is because I’d spoken out on Pakistani grooming gangs which the Labour Party didn’t like, and I was also one of the fiercest critics of the then Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. So I was never going to garner support.’
Certainly, it must be said that in the wake of the misconduct in which those in government have recently been mired, Simon’s prediction in a 2016 interview that, in the grand scheme of parliamentary sex scandals, his misdemeanours would prove to be little more than a footnote has been strangely prophetic.
Could it be any more topical, for example, that we’re talking as former health secretary Matt Hancock — who resigned after being caught in a Covid-rule breaking clinch with his mistress — attempts to rehabilitate his career by carrying out a series of humiliating tasks in the I’m A Celebrity jungle?
The couple next met when Simon returned for another visit in May. He proposed during his third visit two weeks ago, getting down on bended knee in his hotel suite
‘I do think it’s ironic that I lost my political career to what in the scale of things is a really tiny issue whilst many have survived politics having done far worse — but that’s life, isn’t it?’ he says. ‘I’m pretty sanguine about it. I didn’t always handle things in the best way at the time.’
Whatever you make of his conduct, Claudine was undeterred. With no prior serious relationship under her belt, she confides that Simon came along as she was getting ready to settle down.
‘I wanted to have a serious relationship. I want to have a family, so it was the right time for me.’
Simon has met Claudine’s extended family, all of whom apparently approve of the match.
‘He has met my parents, my brothers and sisters, some of my cousins and uncles,’ says Claudine. ‘Everyone is pleased for us. They tell me that he seems like a nice person and that he’s the right man for me.’
If her family have an issue with the age gap, then no one is saying, and for her part Claudine insists it is neither here nor there.
‘It is not an issue, it is about the person I love being the right man for me,’ she says. ‘People can make jokes about our age gap. I think we have to prove them wrong.’
Naturally it’s not an issue for Simon either, who insists he is also not deterred by the prospect of late-life fatherhood. ‘I think it will keep me young, it’s a good thing,’ he insists.
One can only hope that they have sorted out the practicalities when the situation arises: at the moment Simon travels between the UK and Rwanda every two months, although the plan is for both to divide their time between London and Kigali — that is, if Claudine can get her visa sorted.
Her first application was rejected as the authorities did not believe their relationship was genuine, ‘so I’m going to try again’, she says.
‘The plan is to hopefully live between the two places,’ adds Simon.
In the meantime, FaceTime and Zoom must fill the gap, although the dodgy internet connection and a two-hour time difference does not always make it easy.
‘We learnt early on in the relationship that communication was crucial,’ says Simon. ‘If we were going to develop a relationship then we knew we had to keep in touch all the time and we’ve got to work at it, which is what we do.
‘I’ve no doubt that I’ve found the perfect woman. I just wish I hadn’t had to go halfway around the world to find her.’
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