This isn't an easy thing to admit in polite company, but I've been sucked into watching Celebrity Big Brother.
I'd forgotten it was starting on Thursday night and had been catching up on Torchwood. I had, honestly, intended to watch News at Ten, but saw CBB listed on the planner and decided to watch it, just for a few minutes, to see who was going in.
I have always liked new host Brian Dowling, ever since he won the second series a whole decade ago, although, inexplicably, the Channel 5 budget doesn't seem to stretch to a suit in his size.
It's been years since I properly watched Big Brother - the last series I took a real interest in was the one where they had the huge Fight Night. Like the rest of the country, whether they will admit to it or not, I cringed during George Galloway's stint on Celebrity BB in 2006, and the racism row which engulfed the 2007 version, but haven't watched it much in the intervening years.
So what's hooked me in this time, especially now the show has moved from respectable Channel 4 to Richard Desmond's appalling Channel 5? Especially as I've heard of so few of the housemates. I was a bit concerned about what the experience might do to Kerry Katona, remembering how the less vulnerable Jade Goody had fared so badly in 2007. It does seem, though, that the producers are helping her along a bit. The task on the first night to act like a diva seemed to me to be a total set up aimed at endearing the audience to her.And gave her ,effectively, the choice of opponent in the first public vote.
Choosing Sally Bercow was probably a sensible move and Sally knows that the writing is probably on the wall for her. After all, she's up against someone who has attracted more magazine column inches than most people over the last decade or so, and a very pretty, if relatively personality-less model, Bobby Sabel. I confess I'd never heard of him until Thursday night, but I suspect he will attract the votes of many young men and women.
I have a lot of time for Sally Bercow. Not sure I'd have done the thing with the sheet, but it takes all sorts to make a world. She's an entertaining presence on Twitter. She may occasionally think it's all about her, but so do the rest of us from time to time. And she will always stand up for decent values - when Heather Mills was taking a kicking on Twitter, involving a lot of abuse about her disability, Sally was quick to defend her from it, retweeting this blog post.
Her appearance on the show gives £100,000 to the charity Ambitious about Autism. Their fundraising income was less than £2 million last year according to their annual report to 31 July 2010 so that donation alone, if all else remains equal, gives them a 5% increase. It's a significant boost for them and will raise awareness of the things they do and potentially lead to greater donations.
I did wonder why she had chosen to give money to publicist Max Clifford. It's not that I don't like him, or anything - in fact, many years ago I sat next to him at a recording of some current affairs Sunday morning thing and he was very pleasant - but does he really deserve £20,000? It's maybe easier to understand if you look at some of the appallingly sexist bile that's been thrown at her in the press.
The Fail makes a thing about how she makes her poor husband mop the floor. Well, actually, she said he does do that, not that she makes him. And why the hell shouldn't he do his fair share of the housework? The idea that it's embarrassing for a man to do housework belongs well and truly in the first half of the last century.
Apparently the Tories are frothing at the mouth, renewing their efforts to get rid of John Bercow as Speaker because of her antics. Well, let's be honest, they've always hated his guts and would happily chuck him out int he twinkling of an eye. They may well think that Sally should sit at home and bake cookies and smile sweetly, and support her husband and only speak when spoken to, but do we really want to go back to the age when a woman was nothing more than her husband's chattel? Tories might, but the rest of us have a bit more respect for our independence and autonomy, thank you very much.
The Fail will no doubt continue to take every conversation she has out of context. It slagged her for talking about the art of "vajazzling" with another contestant. Actually, that conversation involved Amy, from the Only Way is Essex offering to do one for her, and her refusing. Hardly earth shattering. And why shouldn't women discuss such things, anyway? It's not my cup of tea, but are they supposed to sit around talking about cross stitch and baking for goodness' sake?
I've even heard Liberal Democrats critically mutter about her self promotion. I mean, anybody in politics criticising someone else for putting themselves forward is a bit of a cheek.
Labour MP Kate Hoey has suggested that Sally Bercow should hand over her fee because she gets to live rent free in the Palace of Westminster. What a load of nonsense! I don't remember anyone ever proposing that Cherie Blair should hand over her earnings as a barrister to cover the cost of the flat that came with her husband's job.
Apparently, the Speaker himself is thinking of divorce - although, if he's concerned about his wife's antics attracting press attention, you'd think he'd have stopped his mates blabbing to the Fail on Sunday. If that is indeed what happened.
While I might not agree with everything Sally Bercow says or does, the disproportionate disapproval heaped on her is way out of order and for that reason I feel the need to show some solidarity with her. She's sassy and sparky, and is by far the most intelligent, articulate and interesting person in that house. Putting yourself up for that much scrutiny takes some guts and there have been times where she's looked terrified, particularly when talking to My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding's Paddy Doherty. She still made the effort to actually get to know him and find out more about him.
The dilemma, of course, is that any action to save Sally means phoning up and donating money to Richard Desmond and his sexist empire which does so much to demean women. Even writing that makes me feel a bit queasy. Somebody on Facebook suggested that I could just view it as helping to pay off the national debt as some of it would go in tax, but it doesn't make me feel any better about the prospect.
There are times, though, when you just have to show a bit of support to someone taking unreasonable media criticism based on the idea that wives should be seen and not heard. That's why I want to see Sally Bercow defy expectations and stay in the house a bit longer.