Wife of UK Speaker extolls Big Ben's sex appeal

The wife of Britain's House of Commons speaker says she is sorry for praising Parliament's sex appeal while clad only in a sheet.

Sally Bercow said Friday she had been "a fool" to agree to a sexy photo shoot and a newspaper interview extolling the romantic charms of living in the shadow of Parliament's clock tower.

Bercow was photographed wearing only a bedsheet to accompany the article, in which she described the "incredibly sexy" view from the 19th century Speaker's House residence she shares with husband John.

She told the Evening Standard that "I never realized how sexy I would find living under Big Ben with the bells chiming."

Sally Bercow, 41, also said that power is an aphrodisiac, and that "since John became speaker, the number of women who hit on him has gone up dramatically."

"I don't get jealous because more men have hit on me, too," she said.

The comments were not well received by conservative commentators, who regard Sally Bercow as too outrageously outspoken for the sober role of speaker's spouse.

Former Conservative legislator Ann Widdecombe said Sally Bercow "isn't contributing to the dignity of the office."

John Bercow, a Conservative lawmaker, was appointed Parliament's 157th speaker in 2009, amid grumbles from traditionalists who feel he lacked the dignity required of his role as impartial overseer of lawmakers' debates. His decision to wear a suit and tie under his speaker's gown, rather than the traditional ruffled shirt and tights, was regarded by some as a regrettable abdication of tradition.

For conservatives, his wife is even worse: a feisty member of the opposition Labour Party who has run for office in local council elections, she has used Twitter to rebuke her husband's critics and has spoken publicly of her past battles with alcohol.

Sally Bercow said the tempest about the article was a "storm in a bedsheet," but acknowledged she may have miscalculated.

"I was a fool really to agree to be photographed in a sheet," she told the BBC, but said she didn't want to be "a wife who walks dutifully three paces behind my husband and keeps her mouth shut and makes cucumber sandwiches."

"I am a personality. I've got ambitions of my own and it was just meant to be a bit of fun.

"I think it's quite a tasteful photograph," she added, "and my husband's not exactly thrilled about it, but he's pretty cool really."