A former columnist of this parish once said of Sally Bercow that he could be certain that he had never slept with her, but she couldn't be quite so sure she'd never slept with him.
It was, on almost every level, a less than gallant remark, but, in the eyes of many, Mrs Bercow is a dreadful attention-seeker who can't complain when she becomes the subject of uncomplimentary observations.
I have never met Mrs Bercow, but I regard her as an entertaining and diverting addition to the public discourse. She has run the gamut of political affiliation: she was an active member of the Conservative Association as a student, but now has an ambition to become a Labour MP.
Notoriously, she posed for pictures wearing nothing but a bedsheet - an unusual course of action for the wife of The Speaker of The House of Commons - and has discussed in refreshingly open terms past indiscretions. She admits to having had a weakness for drink and a propensity for one-night stands (how often the two are related, I've noticed).
She is a totemic figure of our age, the most perfect embodiment of Celebrity Big Brother culture and someone who wouldn't exist in the public consciousness without Twitter. She's famous for being famous, propelled to prominence by the fact that mainstream media is still run by middle-aged men who find the idea of an attractive, single-minded, voluble, suggestible middle-aged woman both terrifying and captivating. Also, she's only ever one quote away from embarrassing her husband.
She's been in the news on two counts this week, first for declining an invitation to Mrs Thatcher's funeral in classic, Bercovian, look-at-me, fashion. She was invited only as her husband's plus one, but having said that Mrs Thatcher “ushered in a greedy and selfish society”, she thought it would be hypocritical if she was part of an “attempted canonisation” of the former PM. “Margaret Thatcher wouldn't have given a monkey's whether or not I attended her funeral so I don't see why the media cares either,” she said.
Oh, come on, Sally! If the media took no notice of your actions and statements, you'd be like someone starved of oxygen. Mrs Bercow has assiduously navigated her route to notoriety, using her husband's political position as a stepping stone, and is now someone who has reach (60,000 followers on Twitter) and a public profile in her own right.
Which has been at the heart of a discussion in the High Court. Mrs Bercow is being sued by Lord McAlpine over a tweet which, it is alleged, identified the Tory Peer as a paedophile - an accusation comprehensively disproved. Lord McAlpine's counsel said of Mrs Bercow: “We are not talking about some kitchen table blogger...we are talking about a pretty widespread readership.”
And wrapped up in that assessment we have the whole post-Leveson problem for those who wish to regulate the media. Sally Bercow's tweets have a much higher circulation than, say, the Derby Evening Telegraph. But she would be outside the new regulatory framework. What to do, in this age of unmediated discussion, with someone who has a point of view and a computer? It is a question that vexes John Bercow, and many others, too.Reuse content