Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

How Nadine and Sally have let women down

Nadine Dorries is one of this year's contestants on ITV1's I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! (ITV/PA)

Believe me, it would be easy to defend Nadine Dorries and Sally Bercow. Ladies of a certain age demanding and getting their second wind.

Only doing what notable men have done without censure, getting down and dirty in Crud TV. Showing how possible it is in our time for a woman to be successful, attractive and earthy. One - or two - in the eye of a broadcast media that's been proven to be nakedly ageist as soon as the bloom is off the female rose.

All that stuff.

Besides, watching Dorries chomp down on an ostrich's anus or Bercow wrap herself in a bed sheet for a photograph in front of the Palace of Westminster adds to the gaiety of the nation.

But none of that really excuses the empty-headed chits.

Both have shown themselves to be Kerry Katona wannabes. Which is both profoundly sad and exceptionally infuriating. Because neither Dorries nor Bercow are young, inexperienced women making wrong life choices. And neither of them can honestly be said to be exploiting their 'looks' while they last. On the contrary, both are in the prime of life and are in complete control of their own careers. Each is in a position where what she does is 'an expression of her self', as the feminist handbooks say. They have as much freedom, as much privilege as anyone has a right to expect. And what is their message? "Sod that, is my pic in Hello! this week?"

Dorries goes into public life only to ignore the needs of her constituents and imply that being an MP isn't that important. Who wants to shape the country's law and government policy, when you can swap banalities with Eric Bristow? Nadine, you're not a celebrity. You're the Member for Mid Bedfordshire. In the oldest parliament in the world. Show some respect, show some sense of the dignity of public office. The reason you were approached in the first place was because you're an MP. Not because of your looks, your sense of humour or your radiant charisma.

But if Dorries is bad, Bercow is much, much worse. At least Dorries earned her spurs in public life. Bercow simply married her fame.

Now, normally, being married to the Speaker of the House doesn't get you a media career. But it does if you are prepared to trash the dignity of hubby's office, show how much of a 'free spirit' and pseudo-feminist icon you are and metaphorically flash your expensive knickers at every opportunity.

As husband John is a Tory, she is, naturally, a Labour supporter. He has the reputation of being a sniffy aesthete, while she wallows in tastelessness, showing her 'democratic' side by doing Celebrity Big Brother and traipsing around with My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding star Paddy Doherty.

She makes her living by making herself a quasi-political figure. Hence her obvious delight in tweeting about Lord McAlpine. What does she have to do with the Wrexham child abuse scandal? Nothing. But still she decides to join the witch hunt because McAlpine is a Tory and because - as an out and out Z-lister - she follows anything that moves.

One can't help but join in the schadenfreude at her downfall. Both these women have been a Godsend to the Neanderthals who argue that women can't cut it in public life.

As an MP and as wife of the speaker, Dorries and Bercow had duties to the dignity of our democracy. They also had a duty to the millions of ordinary women still struggling to play their rightful role in public life, be it politics, industry, media or whatever - or just to be treated with respect in their workplace.

Nadine and Sally may be ready for their close-up, but their posturings come at a terrible cost.

Thousands of young girls will understand that whether it's entertainment or the shop floor or politics or the office workstation or just plain old marriage and babies, it doesn't really matter.

They are all just different routes to being completely pointless.

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