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

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

Investigo: Group Financial Controller

£50000 - £55000 per annum: Investigo: A growing group of top end restaurants l...

Ashdown Group: HR Generalist - 2 week contract - £200pd - Immediate start

£200 per day: Ashdown Group: Working within a business that has a high number ...

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Recruitment Genius: Business / Operations Manager

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This well-established and growi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Douglas Carswell (L) and Mark Reckless (R) - two new fresh and exciting faces in Parliament...?  

The depressing reality of white male supremacy in the UK has just been mapped out

Mollie Goodfellow
 

Daily catch-up: Old London Bridge; how to fight UKIP; and wolves

John Rentoul
In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible