Sarah Brown: celebrity wife

Gordon Brown once rejected the politics of celebrity, now his wife hangs out with Paris Hilton.

Emily Hill

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Back in the days when Gordon Brown was saviour-of-the-nation-in-waiting, rather than a cheese wheel short of complete mental crack-up, his wife Sarah was a largely silent political consort, a retired PR exec and mother-of-two.

Now that the PM teeters on the brink of political annihilation, however, poor Mrs Brown is everywhere, mounting a ‘lasagne offensive’ on the cabinet, air-kissing Paris Hilton in public, admitting that Katie Price, aka Jordan, is ‘a credit to our country’, holding hands with Barack O, breaking into ‘Kumbaya’ with Desmond Tutu (okay, I made the last one up), and generally being billed as some sort of human parachute on to which her husband can cling as he launches over the edge towards the General Election. Perhaps, pro-Labour sources gush, she will even break his fall.

Last week the Guardian devoted a five-page spread in its G2 section to the new, super Sarah. ‘Today she is arguably the most admired and powerful woman in Britain – and a truly modern public figure’, Andy Beckett wrote. ‘How did she do it? Why is she so well liked? And can her extraordinary reinvention help save Labour?’

Leaving aside the fact that Sarah can no more save Gordon than Norma Major could have saved former prime minister John following reports that he tucked his shirt into his underpants and feasted on frozen peas, Sarah’s success can be put down to one simple thing: she has become a celebrity. Yes, in the age of the celebocracy, gushing about Paris Hilton on your Facebook profile, hanging with Naomi Campbell and getting photographed with Nicole Kidman for charidee is the way to prop up those plummeting poll ratings.

Since Gordon announced that we had passed ‘from this period when, if you like, celebrity matters’, he has had a bash at proving it really does matter, going for ‘secret’ drinks with Kylie Minogue, inviting more celebs than you could cram into a series of Strictly Come Dancing to Chequers, giving an anniversary message to Countdown, offering a ministerial job to GMTV’s Fiona Phillips, and appearing on American Idol in a recorded message. But he’s largely missed the point, by positioning himself not as a celebrity, but as a fan of celebrity, which just makes him look even more deranged as he sets aside the business of government to pen heartfelt letters to X Factor finalists and the England cricket team.

His wife, however, in a shorter stint in the celebrity embrace, is doing much better: meeting Paris Hilton as an equal and tramping across muddy fields at Glastonbury with Naomi Campbell. ‘Loved Paris Hilton who I met last week in LA for the first time’, Sarah wrote on Facebook earlier this year. ‘Nothing about her public image prepares you for the first meeting. She’s a smart, caring, considerate person. Who knew?’

Paris felt the same. ‘Just had an amazing conversation with Sarah Brown, Gordon Brown’s wife’, she twittered live from their tête-à-tête. ‘She is such a smart, beautiful, inspirational woman. What an incredible event! So many inspirational speakers, amazing philanthropists and political leaders. Sitting at the dinner with Sarah and Naomi Campbell.’

In the celebrification stakes, Sarah is still some butt-crunches short of Michelle Obama. Profile upon profile has pored over Michelle, from what she thinks of her husband’s breath in the morning to the name of her dog to what she plants in her vegetable patch. Mrs Obama’s arms are, apparently, an object of fascination the world over (much like J-Lo’s rump and Scarlett’s pout). ‘If Helmut Newton were alive he’d be doing kip-ups to photograph her for a Big Nudes volume two (no disrespect meant)’, proclaimed Barbara Amiel in Macleans magazine. ‘Those deltoids, biceps and triceps brachii are killer attractive.’

‘They have both honed the body beautiful’, the Evening Standard’s Liz Hoggard adds: ‘Michelle’s 5.30am gym sessions have paid off with a lean, athletic look while Sarah is bringing up the rear with a new trim figure thanks to the gym beneath No.10. Her shapely legs and toned stomach are courtesy of a devotion to Pilates. Occasionally Michelle’s look can smack of indecision. The “lemongrass” coat and shift dress she wore to inauguration day were over-busy with diamanté detail and too many ribbon ties…’

Ugh. Ribbon ties. A classic boo-boo from the novice celebrity. Ultimately, in the Top Trumps of twinsets, Michelle and Sarah are still both beaten by Carla Sarkozy – but the model wife of the French president has, after all, been in the game longer. Just give them time…

Emily Hill is a reporter on the Londoner’s Diary at the Evening Standard. Visit her personal website here.

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