"Oily careerists suck," Sally Bercow declared last month, in one of her many online outbursts. So does the wife of the Commons Speaker, Twitter addict, tabloid columnist, mother of three and reality TV star, have what it takes to become a career politician?
Mrs Bercow takes pride in her independent streak, even – or perhaps especially – if it means ruffling the feathers of the establishment. Now she wants to join it. The 42-year-old marked her birthday last week by declaring she is ready to throw her "hat into the ring" to become a Labour MP. But, after confiding she didn't fancy all the "slogging around" looking for a seat, she has hopes of winning back a marginal for Labour.
With not a little understatement, she admitted: "It would be a rare Labour selection committee that would take me on." However, one seaside city might be willing to take the chance. "Brighton could be one, because I don't think they are into identikit politicians," she told The Argus newspaper in the city. "I know Brighton very well. I was brought up in West Sussex, and I love Brighton to bits."
Not a traditional party politician, she rules out trying to win the Brighton Pavilion seat back for Labour because she thinks Caroline Lucas, its Green MP, is "brilliant". Instead she raises the prospect of standing against the Lib Dem minister Norman Baker in nearby Lewes or Tory newcomer Simon Kirby in Brighton Kemptown, who admitted that going up against Mrs Bercow would make for an "interesting" battle.
She is certainly interesting. Having attended Marlborough College (in the year above Samantha Cameron), she addressed Tory party conferences before switching to New Labour in the 1990s. She posed in a bed sheet in the Evening Standard to admit to one-night stands and heavy drinking in her youth. This summer she appeared on Channel 5's resurrection of Big Brother, which led to a new reality show living in a caravan with "celebrity traveller" Paddy Doherty. And last week she told Total Politics magazine her favourite gadget was a vibrator.
She is also a staunch campaigner for autism charities – raising £100,000 from her Big Brother appearance – and with her 40,000 Twitter followers she has arguably opened up politics to a new audience.
That is not to say Mr B, as she calls her husband, has been entirely supportive. When challenged about his wife this month, the Speaker declared that Sally was not his "chattel, appendage or add-on". This seemed less the words of an enlightened modern man and more a weary admission of defeat. "She is perfectly free to do her own thing," he added. "Thanks Honey," she replied.
So, profile raised, seat identified, permission granted, maybe nothing can stop her march to power. But her experience at the hands of the voting public is not good. After causing a mild storm by entering the Big Brother house, she lost the first public vote and was promptly given the boot.
- More about: