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: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Administrator

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are a world leadin...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Kennedy campaign for the Lib Dems earlier this year in Bearsden  

Charles Kennedy: A brilliant man whose talents were badly needed

Baroness Williams
Nick Clegg (R) Liberal Democrat Leader and former leader Charles Kennedy MP, joined the general election campaign trail on April 8, 2010  

Charles Kennedy: The only mainstream political leader who spoke sense

Tim Farron
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral