Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Mrs Brown speaks

Posted by Sarah Vine.
Sarah Brown’s short speech ahead of her husband’s at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton will inevitably draw controversy. For every viewer who thought it touching that Mrs Brown should introduce her husband as “my hero” there will be many who will be reminded of that old adage, “don’t put your wife on the stage, Mr Brown”.
In the event, she was good; but was she right? After all, it is one thing to have your wife join you at the podium, all smiles and kisses and beautifully blow-dried hair, at the end of a barnstorming set; it is quite another to unashamedly deploy her as a warm-up act. But it worked last year; not to do it again would have seemed like a vote of marital no confidence. Sarah Brown faced an impossible choice. Stand by her man; or stand down.

Her performance, polished and professional, owed more than a little to Michelle Obama, whose ability to support her husband without stealing the limelight played a significant part in his successful election campaign. Even sartorially Mrs B mirrored Mrs O. Her dress for yesterday’s speech was by Britain’s very own Jason Wu (the recherché, strategically correct young American designer championed by Michelle Obama): Brighton-based designer Erdem Moralioglu.

Erdem (he must be addressed by his first name, in the correct fashionista way) represents a marked departure from the cosy confines of Jaeger. His was one of the more exciting of the recent London shows, and Mrs Brown wore Erdem to her fashion week party at No 10. Paired with the Jimmy Choo shoes (guess what: Mrs Obama has the same in various heel heights) and the Astley Clarke jewellery, it all made for a high-end package, a look that demands the wearer be taken seriously.

Even the speech itself was true to the Obama model. A recent book about the Presidential marriage has referred to Mrs Obama chastising the soon-to-be leader of the free world for leaving his socks lying around; Mrs Brown talked about her husband being messy, noisy and getting up at an unearthly hour. The two men may have failed to get it together over at the G20; but at least they have one thing in common: they are both slobs.

There is, however, one crucial difference. Obama was a man on the way up, a rising star whose reputation has yet to be dimmed by the harsh realities of politics. Currently, Brown resembles more a black hole, sucking in all light and energy before collapsing in on himself. He is entropy in human form; it is going to take more than a little affectionate marital gloss, a gentle “if I can love him, then so can you” to pull him out of it. Likeable, intelligent and capable as Mrs Brown is, it’s not enough. She may be one of Brown’s best assets; but she does not have a mandate from the British people to be Prime Minister. Then again, neither does Brown...


  1. I would desperately love to know Sarah Brown's views on Gordon's new policy for sending teenage mothers to 'supervised homes' (apparently those from stable backgrounds might well be left alone - God pity the poor A-level student and her one night of idiocy)... Stigmatising them and removing them from their families is clearly a way to advocate social change. Even less responsibility due from their families to take care of their own - no The State must step in and remove that responsibility as they can do it so much better...

    I wonder what her Well-Woman stance is on that peculiar 'back to the workhouse with you feckless beings' policy...

  2. I am very impressed with Sarah Brown and her efforts to represent Britain and her husband in a supportive but not agressive way. She certainly goes some way towards me believing Gordon Brown must be very different in person to how he comes across. I know people who have met him and tell me he is very charismatic and has an amazing memory.

    Whatever happens in the future professionally they seem to have a very happy family life.

  3. Jo - the TEENAGE MOTHERS BEING HERDED INTO SPECIAL HOMES. Don't get me started. When I heard that yesterday I almost fell off my chair. Shall we soon be referring to them as fallen women. I know two women very well who had babies in their teens; both work two jobs each, both help children in our community here, and their own children are beautifully brought up and an absolute delight. But they are the exact people Gordon was talking about. It can't be right.

    Rose - I have always heard that Brown in private is a completely different person to Brown in public. It's most curious.

    And by the way: did I not tell you that Sarah's posts are always worth waiting for?

  4. I don't feel a sense of betrayal as such in Labour as I didn't vote for them(!), but I do feel an immense disbelief with what's happened since 1997 and a betrayal of our instinctive societal intelligence...

    Education or the lack thereof, disillusionment in nursing, the case of the 2 policewomen and their children, the case of Fiona Pilkington - all of this seems to me a result of state interference and it seems to me that we can't take much more of it. How fat we are, how thin we are, how many children we have, when we have them - it just goes on and on like an out-of-control madness, as if they just keep throwing laws and policies at issues in an attempt to sticking-plaster everything and I can't help thinking: It ain't working.

    I CANNOT get my head around this teenage mother malarkey - someone tell me I have the wrong end of the stick. I read today it was to stop them applying for social housing, but it's no way to go about it. I read 3 stories of amazing teenagers this week; they put themselves through uni with babies in tow and just got on with it because somewhere along the way it had been drummed into them that you still need an education behind you. Would these three have been herded into a 'home' and denied the chance of furthering their education? The thought doesn't bear the thinking... Must stop now - my heart is palpitating with fury and righteous indignation.


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