Belfast Telegraph

Big Ben or Big Brother? Make up your mind, Sally

Populated almost exclusively by 'celebrities' from TV shows that made them celebrities for not being celebrities to begin with, Celebrity Big Brother is a singularly unattractive viewing proposition.

It's like reading a review of a restaurant whose cuisine you actively dislike, or being arachnaphobic and considering a holiday in Australia's outback.

However, if the series premiere on Channel 5 had to be watched, then Sally Bercow was, for many like me, the only name that made one mildly curious.

The wife of the Speaker of the House of Commons does, on the otherwise spray-tanned, slack-jawed face of it, add gravitas. There's a bit of politics, a bit of privilege and she's clearly a woman with a brain. Come on, you didn't think she hadn't coolly calculated the 'exact' effect of posing in a bedsheet in a flat overlooking Big Ben?

Political wives are welcome to do almost anything they like, if it's legal, ethical and not utterly selfish. Yes, the Daily Mail might rear up on its hind legs about the Speaker's wife mingling with Mr Paparazzi and a Big Fat Gypsy bare-knuckle fighter, but should that matter?

As far as Bercow goes, it clearly does. She even name-dropped the paper in her televised introduction to the Big Brother house.

So 'sticking two fingers to the establishment' is her incentive for taking part. "Because of who I'm married to, it's not acceptable apparently," she said. "I hope [John] doesn't divorce me over it."

Make your mind up, Sally. Do you want your participation in this tawdry spectacle to pass without comment because you're an independent woman? Or do you want those old squares in Parliament, and in a famously prudish newspaper, to froth at the mouth?

The clue is in Sally's spokesperson - one Max Clifford. A woman in need of a purpose in life these days must first appoint a publicist. As reported by the BBC, Clifford said she had agreed to appear on Big Brother to raise her profile and "wants to speak to Simon Cowell about potential TV projects". Ah, now I see.

But if she's not sure if she's a Beyonce, or a Norma, and really she's Kerry Katona with better hair and some GCSEs, there is still something commendable about Sally.

She stalked down the stairs to join the rest of the cast to find them getting stuck into the free booze, the lubrication traditionally applied in reality TV shows to make the action 'flow' and then announced, "I don't drink."

Boom - there's her schtick right there. What this show needs is a clear-headed matriarch, someone who doesn't need to guzzle Bacardi Breezers to have fun.

One could wonder, being thin-lipped without fully endorsing a red-top monstering, whether the mother of three young children might embarrass them less and support them more by being at home with them during the school summer holidays, rather than seeking tabloid fame among the barrel-scrapings on Channel 5.

That's not being anti-sisterhood. That's just a reasonable expectation of a parent. And yes, I am one.

Mrs Bercow is terribly proud of donating £100,000 to Ambitious about Autism, the charity of which she is parent patron. It is noble.

But let's not forget the £20,000 she is paying Max Clifford to raise her profile. Or the £30,000 she is keeping - which is not bad for a few days of mild humiliation.

To be absolutely sure that Sally Bercow is maintaining her teetotal, socialist, feminism 2.0, woman-of-the-people persona, I'd need to keep watching.

And nothing and nobody will make me do that.

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