IF there are disapproving mutterings about Sally Bercow and her latest stab at fly-on-the-wall television, she insists they won’t be from her husband.
The controversial parliamentary Speaker’s wife, whose spouse John initially had misgivings about her appearance in Celebrity Big Brother, said he was 100 per cent behind her latest venture.
“Oh he was very supportive,” she says from the family apartment in the Palace of Westminster. “I don’t assess and analyse his work and he doesn’t analyse mine. I just say, ‘Honey, I’m off doing this. I’ve got the childcare sorted’ and he says, ‘OK, that’s fine’. I’m very lucky. He’s incredibly supportive.”
However she adds: “He wasn’t happy about Celebrity Big Brother, but I know now John is very proud and thinks it was all a storm in a teacup. I think there’s a lot of snobbishness about reality television. I have absolutely no regrets about doing it.”
The mother-of-three drew wholesale criticism for her 2011 appearance, She was the first to be evicted, but her appearance netted her £100,000 for charity, and an unlikely friendship with the show’s winner Paddy Doherty.
Indeed, she got on so well with Big Fat Gypsy Weddings star Doherty that they have teamed up to co-present Paddy and Sally’s Excellent Gypsy Adventure. In the four-part series, they visit traveller communities in Ireland, Hungary, Spain and Malaysia and explore the local customs.
“I was open-minded about travellers anyway, having met Paddy and been to stay at his campsite. But what was really encouraging was that it showed how the traveller community might evolve in the UK. In Spain, they are very much part of mainstream culture, not segregated and ostracised. I met gypsies who are architects and doctors and who go to university and have more opportunities because they’ve been through the education system.”
The experience also brought her closer to Doherty, whom she calls one of her best friends.
“We speak on the phone at least once a fortnight,” she says. “I’ve taken my kids to see him, and he’s been down here to see me. The television work is an added bonus but even if we didn’t have that, we’d definitely still be seeing each other regularly.”
She thinks it’s their differences that make them click so well.
“Our backgrounds are very different. He lives in a traveller site, I live in a royal palace. He left school at 10, I went to Oxford University. But we both say it how we see it.
“I think we both feel a bit like outsiders. I’m a fish out of water here in Westminster and Paddy, being a traveller, feels outside mainstream society. We’re both slightly rebellious and outspoken.”
Outspoken is one of the adjectives most associated with the 42-year-old. Last year she raised eyebrows when she was photographed wearing only a bed sheet for an interview in which she gave such choice quotes as: “I never realised how sexy I would find living under Big Ben with the bells chiming.”
She has been open about issues with alcohol in the past, revealing that in her 20s she’d drink two bottles of wine a day.
“Oh, I’ve made so many mistakes that if I spent all my time analysing them and regretting, I’d probably want to jump off a cliff,” she says, cheerfully. “But I don’t really believe in looking back. I look forward.
“I might have ruffled a few feathers here and there but I haven’t broken the law or brought anybody into disrepute. I think some people need to lighten up a bit.”
Bercow has found herself in hot water over some of her Twitter comments, including an admission this year that she was tempted to try ‘legal high’ methoxetamine. But she has no plans to censor herself.
“I don’t take myself seriously so I don’t necessarily expect others to. Some things I say I mean, and some things I’m just having a laugh with.”
Bercow, who unsuccessfully stood as Labour candidate for Westminster City Council in 2010, seems resigned to never fulfilling her ambition of becoming an MP like her Conservative husband.“It’s never going to happen. Who’s going to pick me? I’d find it very difficult to follow a party line.”
Paddy and Sally’s Excellent Gypsy Adventure begins on Channel 5 on Wednesday, September 12.