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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 October, 2003, 11:58 GMT
Stylish Mrs Howard's wow factor
By Jackie Storer
BBC News Online political staff

Michael Howard's wife Sandra could bring a bit of pizzazz back to the Conservative Party with her good looks and glamorous style.

Sandra Paul wearing a Brettles Autumn/Winter pen and ink print long shirt in 1972
Sandra Howard: A touch of class
The one-time supermodel, who was photographed by David Bailey and Norman Parkinson for Vogue and Harpers, lived a jet-set life with friends from the highest reaches of show business, including Frank Sinatra.

That was in the 1960s, but even now aged 63, she still retains a photogenic presence by her husband's side as he fights for the leadership.

She will also make Mr Howard one of the first Tory leaders to have a wife who has been married four times.

Sandra, daughter of an RAF Wing-Commander, married Mr Howard in 1975 after meeting him at a Red Cross Ball.

Romantic

She left her then husband, advertising executive Nigel Grandfield to marry him, after Mr Howard wooed her by sending her a copy of F Scott Fitzgerald's romantic novel Tender is the Night.

She was thrust into the political limelight in 1983 when Mr Howard became an MP after securing the Kent seat of Folkestone and Hythe.

Sandra Paul wearing a white coarse veil hat at the winter collection of Simone Mirman in 1960
Mrs Howard waits for her husband to throw his hat into the ring
As he rose through the ranks to win ministerial jobs under Margaret Thatcher and later become a leading figure in John Major's administration, Sandra developed a love-hate relationship with politics.

When he finally left the Tory front-benches in 1999, Mrs Howard confessed to being more than a bit "demob-happy".

Nonetheless, she found political life "addictive" and has often written letters in her husband's defence to newspaper editors who criticised him.

"Politics is addictive," she said. "I am lost in admiration for spouses who never need a fix, who rise above the fray and get on with life, blissfully uninvolved. I could not do it.

"I have cared about every nuance, had my hackles raised more than most, steamed off letters trying to harry harassed editors. Trying to make them see that the man I am married to is passionate and principled, not at all the image drummed up by people with entrenched views."

Controversy

Mrs Howard also found herself the subject of newspaper headlines during her husband's stint as Home Secretary from 1993 to 1997.

Sandra Paul modelling winter clothes at the Pindisports Coty Ski Centre in London's Holborn
Mrs Howard has a love-hate relationship with politics
She threatened legal action in 1997 when Derek Lewis, the Prison Service director, sacked by Mr Howard, alleged that she had urged her husband to reduce the size of inmates' meal portions - an allegation she vociferously denied.

She sparked controversy in 1996 when the media learned that she had sent a letter on Mr Howard's headed note-paper without his knowledge to rebel MP Peter Thurnham.

Her missive expressed sympathy with Mr Thurnham - who had just slashed Mr Major's majority to two by resigning the Tory whip - and told him he had been treated "monstrously" by the party.

Stress factor

Mrs Howard is also aware of the merciless scrutiny suffered by the spouses of rising stars as they reach the top jobs in politics.

Sandra Paul at her marriage to jazz pianist Robin Douglas-Home in 1959
Sandra Paul married Robin Douglas-Home in the 1950s
"There is the stress factor of discovering absolutely anything you say is used in evidence," she said. "You can never be an alibi, hardly ever an asset and often a liability."

She made a brief foray back to her modelling career in the 1990s by posing for Marks & Spencer catalogues aged in her 50s.

Her most recent foray into the headlines was for less positive reasons, when, in September last year, she was mugged outside her home in Pimlico, central London, losing her engagement ring and other jewellery worth 7,000.

The Howards have a son Nicholas, 27, and a daughter, Larissa, 26.

Sandra and Michael Howard
Mrs Howard is a fierce defender of her husband
Mrs Howard also has a son, Sholto, from her first marriage to jazz pianist Robin Douglas-Home, the nephew of former Tory Prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home, whom she married aged 18.

Robin Douglas-Home killed himself three years after the pair divorced.

Mrs Howard was later married to David Wynne-Morgan, a publicist.




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