Of late Sally Bercow has been attempting a backwards Lembit Opik: whilst the path from politician to media personality is a well-trodden one, it seems harder to perform the reverse. Whereas Opik went from having a respectable innings as a member of parliament to becoming the butt of almost an entire episode of Have I Got News For You and appearing on 'I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here' he was at least a minor celebrity by the time he appeared to ditch any semblance of a serious public persona to appear on television alongside Gillian McKeith.
Sally Bercow is not yet particularly famous in her own right, nor has she yet found a substantive career beyond appearing in the media. She dropped out of Oxford, and was fired two years ago from her job. The notion that one day soon she will be Lady Bercow when her husband receives the traditional peerage for his work as speaker of the house seems at odds with the news that she is to appear on the next series of Celebrity Big Brother.
There can be no faster way to embarrass yourself than to set about seeking celebrity, and yet as recently as last year Mrs Bercow was seeking election as a Labour politician. Unless she has completely given up on a more serious role in public life, she must genuinely believe that appearing on reality TV will help her cause.
Can Sally Bercow use Celebrity Big Brother to her advantage? Already on Twitter she has tried to create a narrative that her involvement in the show is part of a feminist reaction to being constantly referred as the wife of the speaker of the house:
"Now *seriously* tempted to go on Big Brother as riposte to those banging on abt "dignity of the Speaker's office". I am *not* the Speaker :)"
The transition from the title 'wife of' to 'embarrassment to' the speaker of the house is hardly an expression of female empowerment. What else besides striking at the heart of sexism could *seriously* tempt Mrs Bercow?
The media strategy continues in a second Tweet:
"*coughs* if I were to do any reality show (Big Bro, Jungle, whatever) a 6-figure sum would go to charity. Rude not to, no? #justsaying"
This is a lady who posed almost entirely naked opposite parliament, and likened herself to Carla Bruni: claims that this television appearance is motivated by charity ring as hollow as might suggestions that the purpose of the NASA space programme was to invent the ear thermometer. As an aside, in the ludicrous economics of the modern world, her entertainment value is worth at best half a Jedward, who are/is (?) being paid £1million to appear.
I met Germaine Greer not long after her time in the Big Brother house, and she calmly explained that her pay was being used to continue conservation work in Australia where she owns large tracts of land populated with indigenous trees, but even she walked out after five days.
George Galloway's career may never recover from the cat outfit incident, in which he was demeaned far more successfully than he had been by the US Senators who brought him before them a year earlier for a hearing on Iraq.
These two public figures had, at least, a body of work behind them. You may not agree with either of them, but they went in with a history of something besides media appearances.
How can Sally Bercow avoid what seems utterly inevitable humiliation?
1. Don't do it. This seems the least likely option, since she is already creating excuses for her involvement, and the storm of news surrounding this story make it unlikely that someone so clearly keen to seek the limelight will shy away.
2. Don't put on any outfits. Again, this seems almost entirely unavoidable.
3. Get plenty of sleep. I was in a train carriage once opposite a reality TV producer who told me she would never appear on a reality TV show because the makers can mess with the sleep patterns of contestants to make them more prone to dramatic displays.
4. Keep your sense of humour. The best example of light-entertainment-to-political-power is Boris Johnson, who went from being an unrecognisable member of parliament to (until the last election) the most powerful Conservative in the country via the television studios.
5. Don't play the game. The only truly successful appearance on Celebrity Big Brother was made by Jack Dee, who repeatedly attempted to escape. By subverting the concept even a little, Dee retained his integrity as a comedian. He won the series, probably because the British public enjoyed voting to keep him in something he so visibly did not enjoy.
Any of us, filmed relentlessly for weeks on end, would produce moments that we might live to regret allowing cameras to witness. Sally Bercow, a woman famous for her lack of political judgment - be it posing, or giving guileless interviews about her lovelife - will undoubtedly provide moments of amusement, but it may be the final nail in the coffin of her political career.
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