Sarah Brown: a woman we can identify with

In an age when a right-thinking feminist would shrink from calling any female person an asset to any other sort of person, I have to admit: Sarah Brown is a phenomenal asset to Gordon. She makes him seem human; she makes his smile seem real; she makes you feel there is more to him than meets the eye; she makes you trust him, because she does. If only Cole Porter were alive, he’d write a song about her. She’s the top.

Gordon would probably not, on his own, have had the brio to attempt an echo of Barack Obama’s ease and class by asking his wife to introduce him. In the wrong hands, that could have been tremendous folly; it’s a mark of Sarah’s confidence and judgment that she could persuade him she’d pull it off, and then go on to do so. She clearly does not seek the limelight, and there’s not a sniff of the compulsive stuff-grab that characterised Cherie Blair. So not only does it reflect well on Gordon that his wife has relinquished her valued privacy in support of him, it also brings a favourable and timely reminder of the ways in which he and his household differ from the Blairs. She ain’t in it for the attention, nor the money. Probably he isn’t either. Maybe she’s right, then – maybe he is “motivated to work for the best interests of people all around the country”.

The other counterpoint is with Samantha Cameron. Mrs Cameron does PR for a posh stationers. Mrs Brown did PR, it’s true, but only for decent things, charities, unions … The New Statesman magazine. When she gave up her work because it clashed with her husband’s, it didn’t seem like a surrendered-wife thing, it seemed self-effacing yet perspicacious, since in supporting him, she was supporting the causes of her own conscience.

You feel that you can identify with Brown, or rather, that her admirable aspects are ones we would all hope to have on our gravestones: she’s funny, apparently, warm and generous. Samantha Cameron’s admirable aspects are that she has nice shoes. The respective appearances of these two women make quick, easily grasped statements about the men they’re with, and Gordon emerges as a man of more substance and intelligence than David.

Still, he has a way to go before he’s out of the woods. Sarah Brown is only his wife; she’s not a wizard.”

From The Guardian, 25/9/08, Zoe Williams