A fragrant, floral señora?

Following a British election campaign without British TV is a frustrating affair - no TV debates, no vox pops with people on the street, no declamatory rhetorical orations from the would-be PMs. Thank god for the internet - Radio 4 online, Youtube, not forgetting, of course, the lifeline for homeworking expats like me, that is our friends' comment on Facebook ("Gordon Brown-pants", "Brown-stained Britain", and my personal favourite, "Flush Gordon"). I will be following it all online today, as Election Day gets going. Everyone agrees that the political leaders' wives have played a more important role (for which read, had more press coverage from a media bored by policies and the hopeless economy) than ever before. Indeed, they are even being described, rather breathlessly, as "style icons", in one survey. Better than an (allegedly) anorexic coke-snorting model or a dippy blonde actress, I guess. We all know about pregnant SamCam and her magic at Smythson, home of fantastically overpriced pink leather diaries, and Sarah Brown's admirable charity work and desperate bid to save her husband from inevitable disaster ("my husband, my hero" is how she introduced him at the Labour Conference. Please.). But what about Mrs Clegg? Or Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, as she is more usually known. Spanish women don't take their husband's name. And even if they did, I don't think she would. For the Lib Dem leader's wife is a truly modern Spanish señora, a serious, high-powered career woman (she is head of international trade practice at multinational City law firm DLA Piper, which today warned of the dangers of a hung parliament; before that she was a Foreign Office adviser on the Middle East Peace Process. Sorry, but for me that wins over marketing luxury stationery any day) who has three children. She famously said, referring somewhat acidly to Mrs Cameron, that she did not have the luxury of being able to abandon her job for five weeks to appear in public with her husband on the campaign trail. "I imagine that is the situation for most people in the country," she added, rather cleverly. After all, the woman is a lawyer. The BBC did a hilarious satire on the three wives, in which a fiery Miriam (she's an attractive, rather than pretty, brunette) refuses to cooperate with a TV crew who want to film her as part of a programme on the three wives. On the phone to Nick, she hisses "You're not going to be PM, one of us has to earn a living." Hilarious, though not neccessarily fair - Spanish women are always played like a wild-eyed Penelope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. She did appear with her husband once, in Sheffield, on a Saturday, while her three sons were still with the abuela in Spain (Miriam is from Olmedo in Valladolid, where her late father was mayor for the PP) and couldn't get back to the UK due to the volanic ash cloud. In the one TV interview she has done, she made some most interesting comments. Asked about being a political wife, she replied, "I dislike that name". Good on you, Miriam. She's probably like the wife in the movie, The Ghost Writer - twice as intelligent as her husband. Asked for her reasons for saying this, she replied: "I'm the wife of a politician. I don't have a role. I'm just married to him." Sonsoles Espinoso, wife of beleaguered Spanish President Zapatero, also a lawyer, is similarly uninterested in taking a high-profile role, guards her privacy very fiercely, and hates living in Madrid. So would I, if I were her. In fact, I'd move to Iceland and take cover in the ash cloud so noone could find me. In another swipe at SB and SC, she said, "It's one thing to let people look into your life so that they get to know the politician, the person, and a different thing, in my view, is to put together a sugar-coated image of yourself, in the hope that brings you votes." This lady is no pastel-covered almond - she’s more of a chilli-coated affair. She has bite. In a more overtly political (and open, Spanish) tone, she also stated that she was “willing to help Nick because he is my husband. I want the best for him and of course I love him. I’m willing to help the party because I’m willing to help what I defend. There is a core set of principles that I just cannot wait to see implemented in the country. Whatever I can fit between the job and the children I will do it 150 per cent.” I hope she’s not expecting to have any sort of social life too, if there’s a hung parliament and the Tories and Lib Dems form a coalition, as is widely predicted as Britain goes to the polls today. She looks genuine, which is what’s important. What you see is what you get. She's a high-flying career mother of three bilingual children, who makes no apologies about having her own work committments. She's a modern, European woman who speaks her mind. She has a foot in each culture and understands both countries. She could be just what a political leader needs behind the scenes. Let's see what happens at the polls today.
Blog published on 6 May 2010