Only a week to go until the Big Day. Sounds terribly like a wedding, but I personally can see a few similarities. The excessive preparation, the inevitable disasters here and there, and of course the actual ceremony; the creation of a union (hint, hint, I feel that there is going to be another coalition). And of course, Boris Johnson can play the role of the crazy relative – there is always one.
So with such little time until the ballots open, it is unsurprising that all elements of our politicians’ lives have been covered, and back to the marital theme, it is unsurprising that there has been a focus on the leaders’ other halves. I suppose this is all counted as part of a wider campaign, an attempt to cover all ground. And I don’t see why not. We have the likes of Nick Clegg’s wife, Miriam, a high-flying commercial lawyer; Ed Miliband’s other half, Justine, who takes her own role in political campaigning; and of course the big name, Samantha Cameron, our current Prime Minister’s wife who successfully maintains the role of creative director at Smythson. I shouldn’t fail to mention the UKIP leader’s partner, Kirsten Farage, previously a government bond broker, who is a little less fond of the limelight.
I was particularly disgruntled by an opinion piece I read online recently from The Telegraph
But is this really for the right reasons, as part of a wider political campaign? Or is it just an opportunity to comment on the dress sense of these women (the ‘Downing Street Catwalk’ fiasco) – or their merits to home life?
I was particularly disgruntled by an opinion piece I read online recently from The Telegraph, which did everything to confirm the general media opinion about the ‘other side’ of our male leaders. Although it was refreshing to read an article which placed the leaders’ wives as preferential political candidates rather than the leaders themselves; the reasons as to why were unsettling. The author of this piece, Melanie McDonagh, believes ‘[A]ll three of the [main] political wives seem more attractive than their husbands.’ Regardless whether anyone thinks this is true, I was stunned by the article’s focus on appearance. Whilst she does comment briefly on the achievements of these women, there is a significant emphasis on physical appearance and public behaviour. At one point, it is said that Sam Cam ‘never oversteps the mark’ – oversteps what mark? Who said she was confined to a particular role?
There is so much talk about gaining the female vote. Not just on a party basis, but looking at the whole electorate.
It amazes me that we still haven’t risen above the foundations set for the political elite’s wives, all those years ago. I thought we’d surpassed the idea of ‘trophy wives’ in politics, women clasping to the side of their husband, their purpose being something pretty to look at. By pushing women back into a corner, giving them a vision of how they are meant to be, and how they are meant to behave in politics, seems rather archaic to me. Have we all forgotten the blood, sweat and tears that went into the campaign for the vote for women? More importantly, why is there a focus on our party leaders’ wives – why is there so little about the husband of, for example, Nicola Sturgeon? Or maybe Leanne Woods’ partner?
There is so much talk about gaining the female vote. Not just on a party basis, but looking at the whole electorate. We keep pointing to the gender turnout gap in elections, with men outnumbering women in the male-female ratio. But is it any surprise when we talk about women in this way?