Page last updated at 13:18 GMT, Friday, 17 July 2009 14:18 UK

Glamorous life of the PM's wife

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The role of Sarah Brown, as seen through her Twitter updates

By Rajini Vaidyanathan
BBC News, Westminster

Whether it is hanging out with supermodel Naomi Campbell at Glastonbury, getting in with the crowds at Gay Pride, or posing with Hollywood heart-throb George Clooney, Sarah Brown's diary has its fair share of celebrity and glamour.

Not, perhaps, what you would expect for the wife of a prime minister.

While Gordon Brown struggles to boost his own and his party's fortunes after a difficult few months, Sarah Brown seems to be in her element, building up a public profile in her own right.

And it is a life she is sharing with thousand of others - thanks to her updates on the social networking site Twitter.

Writing about anything from her dinner to diplomacy, she has attracted more than 400 thousand followers on the website.

Her regular tweets share both the official and banal aspects of her daily life.

Some recent entries from Mrs Brown include:

  • "Final week of school and countdown to summer break. I am using today to do long overdue office tidy and catch up on letters"
  • "The group of G8 spouses were privileged to meet His Holiness the Pope this morning and I have a picture on its way to post up later"

During the recent G8 summit in Italy, the prime minister's wife entered into the online spirit even further by writing a summit blog, which included mention of her refusal to eat veal at dinner - a dietary objection which made many headlines.

'Natural' editor

This weekend, Mrs Brown is expanding her writing interests even further, by guest editing the colour supplement of a Sunday newspaper.

Sarah Brown at the Gay Pride march
Sarah Brown joined in the fun at Pride earlier this month

In her foreword for the News of the World's Fabulous magazine, Mrs Brown says "I've had loads of fun in the editor's chair".

In a video clip to accompany the publication she reveals that her first time guest editing was a "great experience... not at all like the devil wears Prada".

Mrs Brown chose to edit the News of the World supplement to promote the Wellbeing of Women charity, a cause close to her heart.

Sally Eyden, editor of Fabulous magazine, described Mrs Brown as an "absolute natural".

"She was really committed. We sent dummies of the magazine into Downing Street. She was proofing pages in between her meetings at the G8."

She added: "When Sarah came into the office she wanted to speak to staff members about the process. She was even in the fashion cupboard."

Sarah kisses Gordon Brown
Mrs Brown stole the show at last year's Labour conference

Writer Kathy Lette who has known Mrs Brown for more than 20 years, says her brief foray into magazine editing and even those unlikely sightings alongside Paris Hilton and Naomi Campbell are driven by one thing - her commitment to help others.

"I don't think it's a conscious thing that Sarah is suddenly more prominent. I think we have more access to her through Twitter for example her commitment to her charity work hasn't changed.

"She's still devoting the same amount of time.. it's just that there's more interest in her. The media's myopic focus is more on Sarah than on Gordon at the moment," she added.

Low key

Mrs Brown founded the charity Piggy Bank Kids and established the Jennifer Jane research foundation. Named after the 10-day-old daughter she lost in 2002, the organisation supports research to solve pregnancy problems.

At last year's Labour Party conference Mrs Brown took everyone by surprise - including the media, who had not been told about it in advance - when she appeared on stage to give an impassioned speech backing her husband, who was under intense pressure over his leadership at the time.

Introducing him to the party faithful as "my husband, the leader of the Labour party, your prime minister", she kissed him in a display of public affection that grabbed all the headlines the following day and was even seen by some pundits as saving his job.

Sarah Brown, Carla Bruni, Michelle Obama
She is a fully paid up member of the First Wives' Club

When the Browns entered Number 10 in June 2007, Sarah Brown was expected to adopt a more low-key role than Cherie Blair, who had often found herself at the centre of media attention - much of it negative.

But as someone who set up and ran her own PR firm before her marriage, some wonder whether Mrs Brown's new-found public prominence is driven in part by a desire to boost her husband's popularity.

Alice Thomson, of The Times, believes her motivations may be mixed.

"I think partly it is for her husband, I think she suddenly realised that she can actually help him in certain ways", she said.

"I think partly it's because she's a very astute business woman and she didn't just want to be a stay-at-home mum and she has realised her power and I think she's actually having fun herself.. I think she enjoys meeting these celebrities and she's a bit of a celebrity herself," she added.

It is a charge Sarah Brown's friend Kathy Lette denies.

"There has been some speculation in the press that the Labour Party are using her like some sort of stealth missile, but Sarah is a great communicator... it's just with something like twitter it makes it more open and more accessible," she said.

While her husband's appearance on YouTube was criticised by many, Sarah Brown's venture into the online universe have been seen as much more of a success.

Now a paid up member of the international First Wives' Club - many predict that Sarah Brown will continue to shine in her own right - regardless of whether the Browns remain in Downing Street beyond the next election.



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