Harriet Walker: Sneering at the Bercows is class snobbery

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


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.


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: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Errors & Omissions: Outgunned by a lack of military knowledge

Guy Keleny
Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Tiny Tim’s tea shop while canvassing in Rochester this week  

General Election 2015: What on earth happened to Ukip?

Matthew Norman
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions
Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

How Etsy became a crafty little earner

The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

Don't fear the artichoke

Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
11 best men's socks

11 best men's socks

Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

Paul Scholes column

Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

Frank Warren's Ringside

Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

Khorasan is back in Syria

America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

On the campaign trail with Ukip

Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

Expect a rush on men's tights

Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions