Whilst I will attempt to refrain from descending into cattiness, one thing struck me about this attempted PR stunt which badly backfired.
Can you imagine the reaction if, when my husband was still the serving Rector of a parish, I had posed seductively in the window of the Rectory, with the Church forming a picturesque background image, clad in nothing but a bedsheet? If I had gone on to talk about how the clanging of the bell for the Angelus served as a sexual stimulus, how the smell of the musty hassocks enlivened the erotic impulses and how many women found the idea of vicars just so sexy, that they were flocking to my husband to find out exactly what he might be wearing beneath his cassock? Imagine if the subsequent article had appeared on Page 3 of the Church Times or in the mainstream press in an attempt to prove quite what a sexy beast my husband is. I think a spot of episcopal tea and biscuits would definitely have been in the offing, along with a delightful parish in the Outer Hebrides.
A lot of people have commented how great Sally Bercow looked and how those who have objected are old fuddy duddies, wishing to use her to politically point-score against her husband. Well Sally, you really shouldn’t have given them the ammunition. Whilst being a priest is obviously not the dizzy heights as being of the Speaker of the House of Commons, the similarity is that both are symbolic positions. When a priest puts on his chasuble to conduct a service, the whole act is to emphasise the presence of Christ, not the individual. It used to be the case that priests were asked to take off jewellery and watches, in order that nothing of the individual may be discerned. A priest acts in persona Christi, and thus there is no room for personal vanity or affectation. The same principle can undoubtedly be applied to the Speaker of the House. In his position as speaker, John Bercow is allegedly a physical manifestation of democracy, he is the chief officer and highest authority of the House of Commons and must remain politically impartial at all times. The Speaker also represents the Commons to the monarch, the Lords and other authorities and chairs the House of Commons Commission.
What does it matter what the wives of such men do, given that they do not directly hold these positions? It seems to me that it’s about respecting the office itself and not bringing it into disrepute. I am sure I am by no means, not the only clergy wife to have been asked prurient questions about my private life. I was both mortified and highly amused to be asked by one of the ladies from the parish during my hen-night, (which took place after my wedding and turned out to be a ribald affair, far from my expectations) detailed questions about our wedding night. I managed to politely deflect the question without causing offence, but I could not believe that someone would have the temerity to ask such an intimate question, as well as that anyone might really be that interested! I remain circumspect about my intimate life, other than to make generalisations about how hormones can impact upon libido in common with other women, for two reasons: one, it’s absolutely no-one’s business but ours, call me old-fashioned but what goes on in a marriage bed is between husband and wife, to tell all would be like inviting a third-party in to view, and two, which is not quite so pertinent now, out of respect for my husband’s position and ministry, I need to keep my counsel on these matters.
The idea of the priest’s sexual activities could prove something of a distraction to those for whom he carries a huge responsibility and burden of care. If I were to divulge that, hypothetically, he liked to dress up as a gorilla, complete with comedy inflatable banana, to get him in the mood, do you really think that anyone would ever pay attention in a homily again? What about on those occasions where he had to give the sacrament of reconciliation (sadly increasingly rare in the Anglican Communion) or if someone needed to entrust him with a deeply personal confidence? His priestly authority could have certainly have been compromised.
I would argue the same is true of Sally Bercow. Her interview and photo-shoot sadly demeaned the office of Speaker, it seems it will be hard for him to be taken seriously again, how many House of Commons wags are going to be jibing “bong, bong, bong” and the like at him. Plus, if I’m honest, the image of him frantically bonking away to the chimes of Big Ben was more than enough to put me off my Crunchy Nut Cornflakes.
As to Mrs Bercow’s ludicrous assertions about how his position made him irresistible to other women, I would wager this has more to do with basic psychology; as most men who have been without a girlfriend for some time will testify, it’s often like famine or feast, as soon as they do find themselves a companion, suddenly it seems like the entire female population are throwing themselves at him. Reason being, that women are a canny bunch. As soon as a man has a mate, other women realise that he must actually have lots of desirable qualities, in order to have snagged himself a nice girl. There’s also the matter of forbidden fruit, contrary creatures that we are, we are always longing for the unobtainable, that which we can’t have. Of course politics may have played their part, in the same way, that a single young C of E priest must have seemed caring, dependable and reliable, but that’s only a small part of the story.
I don’t quite know what Sally was trying to achieve. If she was trying to prove how attractive and sexy she is, she managed to do that, although I can’t quite see why she felt the need and it’s probably why she attracted so many horrible misogynist and unkind comments on Guido Fawkes blog – undoubtedly many men felt threatened by her. Mind you if you are going to set yourself up as a sex object, then don’t be surprised when you are objectified, perhaps not in the way you’d expected. Was she attempting to boast about her sex life? It strikes me that is not the most efficient way of persuading people of your qualities, its more likely to attract jealousy, resentment or in my case, total bemusement. It seemed to me like the attention-seeking behaviour of an insecure teenager, proudly displaying her love bites. “Look everyone, I’m having SEX, look, sex, sex, sex, lovely, wonderful juicy, sexy sexy sex, rumpety pumpety, bumpy bumpy bump, oooh isn’t it good aren’t I empowered”. No dear, you’re just a married woman having sex with your husband, so what? I’m glad you enjoy it, I’m glad you have a nice time, that’s to be expected in a healthy and happy marriage, but it’s nothing extraordinary, believe me.
Bless her, what she was trying to do was up her public profile, but it wasn’t the most advisable idea, both in terms of her husband’s status and if she does want to be taken seriously as a political candidate, although it is almost definite that she will be either on the next episode of “I’m a Celebrity Get me out of Here” or “Loose Women”. I hear on the grapevine that there are many who are looking forward to seeing the poor woman being forced to munch on a kangaroo testicle.
All just a “storm in a bed sheet”, but I couldn’t help but splutter when she claimed that she had been “stitched up” on Twitter. What, someone had forced her to pose naked in a sheet and talk about her sex life? She had seriously been anticipating an article regarding her stance on economic policy. She was putting some figures to bed? It rather reminded me of the legendary Kenny Everett character “Cupid Stunt” whose every plot-line seemed to consist of a surprised “And suddenly ALL MY CLOTHES FALL OFF”!! Still it was all done “in the best possible taste”!!