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...