Tory MPs have been fretting about Sally Bercow's appearance on Celebrity Big Brother since it was first floated. Already irritated with Speaker John Bercow for being long-winded, unctuous and perceptibly anti-Conservative in the House of Commons, the idea that his Labour-supporting wife would go on the programme's Channel 5 reincarnation had been a red rag to the proverbial.
Sally B has form, too – posing in nothing but a white sheet for a magazine and allowing indiscretions about the Speaker and Speakeress's innermost secrets. If that's what she could do in a demure sit-down newspaper interview, what would she be capable of in the Big Brother house? This week in Westminster, some people predicted Bercow would not last the series – John Bercow that is, not his wife.
The tallest and most articulate of the 11 contestants by some way, she strode down the runway to the same fervent cheering that each guest enjoyed. "Sally B for PM", read a placard.
Safely ensconced, she struck up conversation with Pamela Bach-Hasselhoff – another contestant who might be mistakenly assumed to be in there on account of a famous spouse. We caught snatches of a conversation with Amy Childs, star of docusoap The Only Way is Essex. "Well, my husband is…" was the only audible snippet.
Having had to give up Twitter (she's an avid user), her replacement social exchange will now be with the likes of Jedward and Kerry Katona, the most recognisable of the celebrities, or bare-knuckle fighter Paddy Doherty from My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, a paparazzo, a male model and a couple of actors (American superstars Charlie Sheen, Pamela Anderson and Mike Tyson were conspicuous by their absence).
"I'm kind of going in because I want to stick two fingers up to the establishment," she said in the pre-recorded clip to introduce her to an audience that, let's be honest, had probably never heard of her.
"I'm going to find it quite challenging," she admitted in a very brief moment of self-doubt before continuing: "To those who think that I should be knocked into order, well, we'll see."
But she was very honest about her husband's reaction. "He's not exactly chuffed," she told presenter Brian Dowling, the rather flustered replacement for Davina McCall, who left the show after fronting the series on Channel 4.
The Speaker has apparently stayed on holiday, irritated that his wife has gone against his wishes.
"He wasn't pleased at the time but we've been married nine years and he does know what I'm like. I don't like it when he tries to get me into order," she said, adding: "I hope he doesn't divorce me yet."
She said "even if I cock it up" the Ambition For Autism charity, of which she is a patron, would receive her £100,000 fee.
Bercow appears to have the brain and inclination to raise the tone of the debate in the Big Brother house, but that might not win over the voters. It will be interesting to see whether she cares more about the house she's now in than the one she normally lives in.
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