Harriet Walker: Sneering at the Bercows is class snobbery

The Speaker and his wife inspire opprobrium, but Kate is fawned over for her silence

Share

I thought only ritzy people got to sit on the front row. But there was Sally Bercow, wedged between former PMs Gordon and Tony for the Queen's speech at Westminster on Tuesday. So wedged, in fact, that when her clingy skirt rode up to show her stocking-tops, she was powerless to stop it. Bercow, whatever her state of undress, is always deployed by the right-wing press to embarrass her husband, but he needed no such help this time, rambling on as he did about a gay charity during what was arguably the monarch's time to shine, before calling Her Majesty a "kaleidoscope Queen", summoning a Soho nightspot to mind rather than anything more traditionally regal.

Oh, how David Cameron's patrician eyebrows jerked around his smooth, posh face! How coarse and tedious these little people are! Have they no breeding? Were the cameras not on him, the PM would no doubt have indulged in an aristocratic facepalm, or whatever the upper-class equivalent is. It was like watching Downton's Dowager Duchess boggling at some light smut over the dinner table.

Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail was equally speedy, if less poised, in his bashing of these commoners who dared to give themselves airs and graces: Bercow denounced with the contempt reserved usually for grandiloquent trade union leaders, his wife dismissed as walking like a transvestite. There's no vitriol more potent than that of a snob nostalgic for the time when everyone knew their place.

But what honeyed, cloying praise has been reserved for the Duchess of Cambridge in the same week – the ultimate little person done good, who deigned to wear a dress borrowed from her mother and delivered a speech so stilted it was as if it had been edited by monkeys with access to the cutting room floor footage.

While the Bercows inspire only opprobrium for using their positions to say what they think, Middleton is fawningly respected for having apparently switched her own brain off. We only like social climbers who toe the line and fall quietly into rank alongside their betters. Sally Bercow is a notorious self-publicist – to the extent that one wonders even if the hapless flashing of hosiery was an accident. But that isn't what has made her ridiculous: it's her opinions, even though many of them (dare I say it?) are rather well-formed. Handily, her habit of making a laughing stock of herself and her spouse means her views are that much easier to scoff at.

Middleton, on the other hand, is faultless in the way only a true cipher can be. Ironically, our chance to hear her speak publicly for the first time only served to reinforce the fact that she has no voice of her own. What a strange nation we are, to criticise the Speaker (the clue's in the name) for not hushing his beak, and to make so much noise about a woman whose voice we've barely heard.

h.walker@independent.co.uk

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

Guy Keleny
 

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own