Is there any fate worse than being First Lady? I cannot think of anything I’d dislike more. It’s all the hassle of public life with none of the power – always wearing the right dress and never saying the wrong thing, which, come to think of it, is sort of the inverse of my job. Outside the USA, there’s not even the snazzy title to go with it.
Usually I don’t give much thought to these Little Women, who’ve chained their lives to their husband’s career ambitions, like they’re looking after a diabetic dog. I don’t want to be them, I don’t admire them, I rank their opinions as substantially less important than whatever Buddhist manta Cara Delevingne’s posted on Instagram this week. But now we’re entering the pre-election era when these poor chattels get carted out, there’s no escaping it.
Justine Miliband’s been bullied into an excruciating TV interview, Sam Cam is omni-present (see also: yesterday’s soft-focus photo shoot in the Mail On Sunday). Now, as the election nears and things are getting serious, she was air-dropped into Rochester and Strood constituency in an attempt to reverse the fortunes of the Tory party, who lost the area when MP Mark Reckless defected to UKIP last September
Opining on the previous night’s TV debates during her visit Sam considered her husband (David Cameron, you know, the Prime Minister) didn’t seem too nervous. ‘I’m very glad it’s him not me.’ Somehow sidestepping the fact that it was never going to be her up on that podium, because she’s not actually a politician. Yet, given the way political wives are dangled in front of us, intended to humanise not just their husbands, but their whole party, I’m amazed no one has yet suggested a three-way leaders’ wives debate.
I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to be a political wife. I image it as a Stepford life of blow-dries, kitchen-offs with other First Ladies and throwing house parties for people you don’t even like. Not going clubbing or wearing anything more outrageous than Boden. Not even getting to live where you like. You’d be on constant display, but never allowed any real opinions, especially not political ones. Only maybe on innocuous subjects like saving orphans that no one could disagree with you on. Mainly, though, whatever your professional qualifications – you’re reduced to spouting drivel about how great your husband is with the kids (even if he’s not) as if that’s any reason someone should vote for him.
When does this deal start, I wonder? On the first date? ‘Hey babes, I’ve got big plans, do you mind wearing tights over that Dolphin tattoo?’ At the altar? Will you take this man, no matter how abhorrent his policies? As you give birth, ‘You know, she can’t go to private school.’ Meanwhile, you keep your chin up as the world calls you Mr Spock, because, to be fair, what but your looks has it got to go on? It can’t know your politics, opinions or principles. It’s not your policies it’s voting for. Instead, your engagement in public life is limited to appearing on daytime TV shows and campaign stages giving rigour mortis smiles.
I don’t think I could stand this political WAGery. I’d rather be Miley Cyrus than Sam Cam; I’d rather be Kim Kardashian-West than Ju-Mil. I’d rather be Madonna… actually, I’d rather be Madonna, full stop. Even frivolous pop stars have more moral integrity and personal freedom than the charade of authority the First Lady’s got. Not a politician, an artist or even PA, at best she’s a glorified career. The thing about most of our political WAGS is that when they’re not being Good Wives I rather respect them. I admired Samantha Cameron’s career as creative director of Smythson (or did, before the tax haven stuff). I’ve always thought of Justine Thornton, a barrister and former Government advisor who’s scaled the Atlas mountains as far more than a dress. I’m in awe of Miriam Gonalez Durantez, most of all: an international lawyer whose pay grade and chutzpah cojones far outscale her husband’s. Which is why I wish, when I saw them in public it was inspiring women as professionals, not consorts.
Perhaps this is why the male partners of female MPs won’t be rolled out. Justine, Miriam and Sam Cam will have been asked how they rated their husband’s performances during the leader’s debate, but is anyone watching Peter Murrell’s reaction (Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, in case you’re asking)?
Still, if I had to be First Lady, I’d do it properly, in America. At least there they sell out fully into the frivolity of the role. Making fashion statements in pink milkshake suits like Jackie O or appearing on Ellen, dancing to Uptown Funk, like Michele Obama. Besides, the US produced the finest First Lady ever, Clare Underwood. Although fictional. A woman cool enough to play beer pong in the White House and spend her downtime hanging out with monks. But ultimately she’s the best First Lady because she’s more interested in tackling international politics (often against her husband’s wishes and edicts) as a UN ambassador than any of the perks being the wife of the President entails. For, as she says, when someone asks her why she’s not content with being First Lady, ‘It is not the same as contributing in a concrete way.’
This article originally appeared on The Debrief: http://www.thedebrief.co.uk/2015/04/we-re-not-voting-for-the-political-wags-so-why-are-they-being-dangled-in-front-of-us-like-potential-candidates#.VTZL0bpcTzI