Order! Order!! Sally Bercow, that inveterate user of Twitter, might be receiving advice from her husband John Bercow, the House of Commons speaker, to curb her incessant use of the social media platform after yet another tweeted indiscretion landed her in legal hot water.
Already facing a defamation action from former Tory party treasurer Lord McAlpine for linking him to a paedophile scandal, Ms Bercow has breached a court order by naming a schoolgirl in a child abduction case.
The girl’s identity is protected by a Section 39 Order under the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, but Ms Bercow disclosed the name in a tweet on Sunday evening asking her 59,000 followers for updates on the case. “Forgive random question – just discussing with a friend…,” she explained, after the latest example of her Twitterrhoea.
Ms Bercow, 42, initially failed to respond to warnings from journalist followers that she should withdraw the post. Breaching the order carries a £5,000 fine. She eventually removed the tweet.
She has already been sent a “letter before action” from Lord McAlpine, who accuses her of defamation over a tweet that linked him to an unnamed Tory featured in a flawed Newsnight film about child abuse. “Why is Lord McAlpine trending *innocent face*” she tweeted. Despite the legal letter she returned to Twitter to accuse the peer’s lawyers of being “ambulance chasers” and “big bullies”.
If Mr Bercow does ask his wife to stop embarrassing him, she is unlikely to take too much notice. The fiercely independent partner of the former Tory Shadow International Development Secretary might be a former social secretary of the Oxford University Conservative Association but she now defiantly describes herself on her favourite website as a “Labour supporter”.
While he was trying to establish his credibility in the Speaker’s Chair, she was last year signing up to take part in Celebrity Big Brother 8 on Channel 5, where she was the first contestant to be evicted. Mr Bercow had opposed his wife’s participation in the show, saying he found Big Brother “completely dreadful”.
It launched a reality television career that would see her team up with fellow Big Brother contestant Paddy Doherty to star in Paddy and Sally’s Excellent Gypsy Adventure, also on Channel 5, earlier this year.
Big Brother provided an opportunity for housemates to mimic another Bercow publicity coup: her bed sheet moment. Early last year she appeared dressed only in a sheet, with the House of Commons in the background, for a photo shoot for the London Evening Standard. The Speaker was said to have been so angry at the stunt that he “read the Riot Act”, while she took to Twitter (of course) to predict that “Mr B is going to go potty”.
In truth, he cannot have been too surprised at her actions. Ms Bercow is a complicated woman who campaigned for her husband at the 1997 elections while simultaneously undergoing a conversion to New Labour and abandoning the Tories, despite having twice previously addressed Conservative conferences.
She is said to be on a Labour party list of approved parliamentary candidates, which might have meant that she was in line to become the first serving MP to humiliate themselves on Big Brother or be covered in maggots in a celebrity jungle. If only George Galloway and Nadine Dorries hadn’t beaten her to it.