British MP's wife TV appearance upsets establishment

As Celebrity Big Brother welcomes wife of British House of Commons speaker, critics accuse her of demeaning her husband's role.

LONDON // The wife of the Speaker of the House of Commons - one of the most prestigious posts in the British parliament - has outraged the political establishment by appearing on a reality TV show.

Sally Bercow - who raised eyebrows in February by posing for a newspaper photograph clad only in a bedsheet - is accused of demeaning the role her husband John was elected to two years ago.

The 41-year-old blonde entered the Celebrity Big Brother house at the end of last week alongside Pamela Anderson, novelty Irish singing duo Jedward and ex-pop singer Kerry Katona, a former cocaine addict.

Mrs Bercow has been the subject of furious criticism and it has been suggested her antics could hasten her husband's departure from his job as Speaker - a post that effectively makes him chairman of the Commons.

Mr Bercow, who is in India on government business, is a Conservative MP but he is widely disliked and distrusted by a lot of fellow party members, who believe his views on many issues to be closer to those of the Labour party, which his wife supports.

A senior Conservative told The National: "Sally Bercow says her rather unsavoury stunts have nothing to do with the fact she is the wife of Mr Speaker.

"Though nobody would have known or cared about her had her husband not been elected to a role that has been pivotal to the governance of the country since the 13th century.

"I do not believe she is doing her husband or the post of Speaker any favours by her persistent bids to become a celebrity."

Rob Wilson, Conservative MP for Reading East, told Britain's Daily Mirror newspaper: "John Bercow said he wanted to restore respect and dignity to parliament in his manifesto for Speaker.

"I am not sure how Sally Bercow going on one of the country's tackiest shows helps."

The newspaper also quoted a Commons source as saying: "It's no secret many senior Conservatives are desperate to see him fall and a shambles such as this one could easily signal the end of his term in office."

Even the £160,000 (Dh969,000) fee Mrs Bercow is receiving for appearing on the two-week show has come under attack.

She plans to give £100,000 to an autism charity and another £20,000 to celebrity public relations guru Max Clifford - but Labour MP Kate Hoey has suggested she give the rest to the Treasury as a contribution to the cost of the Commons apartment where she and her husband live for free.

"If she is earning that amount of money, why should taxpayers - and my hard-pressed constituents - contribute to her living in rent-free accommodation?" Ms Hoey told the BBC.

The MP added that she did not care about Mrs Bercow appearing on Celebrity Big Brother.

"She can do what she likes. I don't watch Big Brother and I am even less likely to do so if she is on it."

Daily Mail columnist Amanda Platell wrote about how Mrs Bercow had previously "revelled in telling us about her sex and binge-drinking antics at university".

She also criticised her revelations about how living in the Speaker's apartment in parliament had spiced up her sex life and attacked her regular Twitter postings as "puerile [and] a hideous embarrassment".

Ms Platell added: "But doesn't her decision to join this tawdry TV show speak volumes about a greater truth - the thoroughly depressing decline in standards and performance of our political class?

"Sally Bercow's husband holds one of the highest offices in the land, which can be traced back to the year 1258. Yet she seems to have done everything in her power to demean the dignity of that office."

Mrs Bercow remains unrepentant. She told a TV audience of more than five million she was on the show to raise money for the autism charity and to "stick two fingers up to the establishment".

The couple have been married nine years and have three children.

Asked what her husband's reaction had been, she said. "He is not exactly chuffed [happy] about it. He was not very pleased but he knows what I am like. He respects the fact that I do my own thing."

Published: August 23, 2011 04:00 AM


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