Alice Jones: You're not doing yourself – or your husband – any favours

Sally Bercow

Share
Related Topics

I'm no Julian Assange. There are pieces of information I'd happily go to my grave not knowing. Fairly near the top of my no-need-to-know list, it turns out, are the secrets of the House of Commons Speaker's sex life and the intimate grooming habits of Boris Johnson's teenaged niece. Strangely this week, it's been hard to avoid both.

To say that Sally Bercow, the wife of the Speaker, John Bercow, is unafraid of the glare of publicity is an understatement. She basks in it like a sun-starved Brit on a long weekend in Marbella. She's given interviews divulging a past littered with one-night stands and spattered with binge-drinking, appeared on Have I Got News for You, and she tweets relentlessly, offering strident views to the wider world on everything from her husband's colleagues to jeggings.

Now she's whipped off all of her clothes, wound herself in a sheet and trained her best bedroom eyes down the lens for a magazine article about London's sexiest places. In it the self-styled "Carla Bruni of British politics" tells the London Evening Standard about the "incredibly sexy" moonlit view from the Speaker's House, how "sexy" it is to live under Big Ben (ooh-er!), how she enjoys a "very sexy" chocolate pudding on a date with her husband and how politics is, you guessed it, "sexy". "The most romantic thing I've ever done for John is marry him. He's a very lucky man," she concludes.

He doubtless can't believe his luck this week. Predictably, the rather off-message revelations have caused something of a stir in the fusty corridors of Westminster, and beyond though, oddly, Mrs Bercow herself has been surprised by the reaction. Taking to Twitter to share a little more in the wake of her front-page faux pas, she wrote "*dies of embarrassment* Oh bugger I've been done up like a kipper. Mr B is going to go potty. #naiveSally". Yes, pretty naive, Sally. Presumably she was there when the pictures were being taken. Perhaps she thought the photographer was going to keep the naked ones for his private pleasure. Or perhaps it's a typo and she meant done up like a stripper.

Also guilty of over-sharing this week was Rachel Johnson, sister of Boris and editor of The Lady, who took the archetype of embarrassing mum to new heights when she chose to write about her 15-year-old daughter's Brazilian wax on the pages of Vogue. Initially tearful at her child's enthusiastic adoption of a "pornographic aesthetic", Johnson soon spotted a potential byline in the situation. "I dried my eyes and regarded my only daughter with journalistic interest." And so followed two pages of details about Johnson's own hair-raising first foray into pubic grooming.

Too much information, ladies! That there's something a little undignified about the bare-all nature of both of these articles goes without saying. It's not, though, simply a case of wrinkling one's nose and turning the page, not, as Mrs Bercow put it, just a "storm in a bedsheet". (She even comes up with her own headlines.) Both articles have implications for others beyond their headline-addicted authors.

While Ms Johnson's use of her child's burgeoning sexual awareness as the starting point for an article has been criticised as a maternal betrayal of confidence which places fees above family, Mrs Bercow's latest adventure in newsprint has been read as a threat to democracy itself, bringing ridicule on the office of Speaker with her embarrassing equating of politics and hanky-panky.

I'm not so sure. It's true that her indiscretions offer her husband's not inconsiderable number of detractors further sticks to poke him with and she won't have made his job, bringing order to an unruly House any easier. But it's not her role to smooth his career and, in any case, there's something distastefully 19th-century about the concept of the mute politician's wife. As Mrs Bercow has helpfully pointed out, "Does that mean therefore that I should be a wife who walks dutifully three paces behind my husband and keeps her mouth shut and makes cucumber sandwiches?"

Of course not. No one is asking her to play little wifey. But if she really wants to make a feminist point, is stripping off and talking dirty the best way to go about it? There is a middle ground. The politician's wife who poses for photographs, make cups of tea and gives birth occasionally is, if not quite extinct, then at least an endangered species. Many now have high-powered careers that surpass those of their MP husbands. You don't hear a peep out of them in newspapers or political gossip columns, not because they're terrorised into silence but because they don't define themselves by their husbands' careers. They're busy with their own.

Defending herself on BBC Radio 5 Live yesterday morning, Mrs Bercow declared, "I'm a personality. I've got ambitions of my own." Leaving aside how her political aspirations are helped by titillating photographs (and the fatal damage she has done to the perception of women in politics full stop), she's undone by her own words. The Evening Standard article has her leeching off her husband's office at every opportunity – swooning over the view from his official lodgings, confiding that she finds his power an aphrodisiac. She even uses the word "courting" for goodness sake – hardly the picture of a modern career woman. All she's proved is that she wouldn't be a "personality" at all if it wasn't for her husband.

If Bercow and Johnson insist on trading on the power of their well-known family names to raise their profiles, earn money and build their careers, the least they can do is pay their families a little respect in return.

What – not even any artistic differences?

And so farewell the White Stripes. The Detroit duo who wrote "Seven Nation Army", the most brilliantly insistent ear-worm of the past decade (bet you're humming it now), have split after 13 years. Jack and Meg White announced the end of the band with a lightly pretentious statement on their website, accompanied by a picture of the pair in a playground, Meg flying girlishly through the air on a swing. "It is for a myriad of reasons, but mostly to preserve what is beautiful and special about the band and have it stay that way," they wrote.

How ... nice. But where are the rock-star recriminations? You'd think in a band made up of a divorced couple who pretended to be siblings, there'd be scope for, if not full Gallagher fisticuffs, at least a little Supremes-style name-calling. But there's nothing, not a jot, not even "artistic differences". Instead, they say: "The White Stripes do not belong to Meg and Jack any more. The White Stripes belong to you now and you can do with it whatever you want. The beauty of art and music is that it can last for ever if people want it to."

Before fans get too excited, though, they should remember that this is the music business and harmony comes at a price. The statement ends: "Third Man Records will continue to put out unreleased live and studio recordings from the White Stripes in their Vault Subscription record club, as well as through regular channels."

And when can we buy our overpriced comeback tour tickets, please?

Spare me another cosmetic must-have

Women! If you've spent the past week Googling Fernando Torres (a footballer, apparently), stop immediately! It turns out that too much technology is bad for a young lady's health. Well, not quite – but it could damage our appearance, which is, like, totally just as important.

According to a London plastic surgeon who is absolutely not trying to drum up custom during a recession, "young women" are developing premature wrinkles from squinting at the tiny (pink, jewel-encrusted) screens of their smartphones all day – probably while they're arranging spa days with the girls and buying shoes from Net-a-Porter, or possibly while they're working and trying to read stuff.

Fortunately, a solution is now on hand in the shape of "BlackBerry Botox". And so another cosmetic must-have is added to the 21st-century girl's list. Oh, for those simpler, happier days when we were chained to the kitchen sink and only had wrinkly hands to worry about.

a.jones@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas