Page last updated at 13:41 GMT, Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Head-to-head: The leaders' wives

As the pre-election campaign heats up the focus has moved onto the wives of the men battling for the keys to No 10. Here's Victoria King's guide to the three high flyers.

wives

Basics: Sarah Brown, 46, married to Labour leader Gordon Brown Basics: Samantha Cameron, 38, wife of Conservative David Cameron Basics: Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, 42, married to Lib Dem Nick Clegg

CHILDREN
John, six, and James Fraser, three. Jennifer Jane died in 2001 aged only 10 days. Arthur, four and Nancy, six. Another on the way. Ivan, aged six, died in 2009. Antonio, eight, Alberto, five, and Miguel, one.

BACKGROUND
Born Sarah Macaulay, in Buckinghamshire, to publisher father and teacher mother. Studied psychology at Bristol University, before starting her own PR company. Born Samantha Sheffield, in London, daughter of a baronet. Studied at Camberwell College of Art in London, and later at the University of the West of England. Born in Olmedo, Spain, daughter of the mayor. Studied law at the University of Valladolid then won a postgraduate scholarship to the College of Europe in Bruges.

CAREER
Public relations executive turned professional first lady and charity campaigner. Creative director of Bond Street luxury stationer and leather goods firm Smythson. Head of international trade practice for the multinational law firm DLA Piper.

HOW THEY MET THEIR HUSBANDS
Mid-1990s, while her company was organising Labour events. Married in 2000. On a family holiday in 1992, she was friends with David's younger sister. Married in 1996. They met in 1991/2, while both postgraduate students in Bruges. Married in 2000.

STYLE
Transformed in recent years from frumpy, "don't look at me" browns and greys to bolder, trendier choices. Culminated in fashion-forward patterned dress by hot London designer Erdem at the 2009 Labour conference. Chic and stylish, but keen to appear down to earth when it counts. Chose high street - Zara shoes and M&S dress - for the 2009 conference, but sat in front row at London Fashion Week and has a handbag collection to die for. Favours simple styles, shift dresses in particular, and a mixture of high street and designer, with a bit of European flair. Chose an eco-friendly bag made from recycled ring pulls for the 2010 spring conference.

POLITICAL PROFILE
Centre stage - stunned the crowd when she introduced the PM at the 2008 Labour conference and did it again in 2009. Has her own blog and high-profile charity campaigns. Seen as having key job of making Gordon appear "more human". Supporting role - low-key to date, but is to appear twice a week during the election campaign - "it would be a huge honour to do everything that I possibly could to support him". Seen by some as the Conservatives' secret weapon. Walk-on part - joins the audience for her husband's key speeches, but says she "dislikes" the label "political wife" and doesn't have time to quit her job and children and join the general election campaign. Happy to stay firmly in the background.

WHAT SHE SAYS ABOUT HIM
"He's not a saint", he's "very loud" and "very messy", but "surprisingly romantic". Her description of him as "my hero" was one of the more memorable moments of the 2009 conference. He has "always been incredibly strong, and kind, and supportive" and is "a fantastic dad". Bad habits include being a "terrible mess" in the kitchen and a "terrible channel flicker". Not very much so far. "I want the best for him and of course I love him", is about as revealing as it gets. Also admitted poaching him from a female friend who was in love with him first.

WHAT HE SAYS ABOUT HER
"We're a modern love story" - "She is beautiful, she's elegant, she's compassionate, she's dignified." "A brilliant mother, a wonderful wife, a fantastic businesswoman" - the thing that "sustains me most". "I was bewitched the first time I saw her." Says he had to work "really hard" to get her to notice him.

WHAT THE PAPERS SAY
"One senior Tory told me how jealous he is of Sarah Brown's ability to work a room, systematically buttonholing the most important people in any gathering"
Evening Standard
"Serving as a one-woman focus group or casting a retailer's eye over his project, Sam Cameron shapes the current brand of Conservatism in a number of subtle ways"
Times
"Kept her maiden name, juggles a high-flying legal career and young family and still has time for a blow dry. The most exotic-sounding... a great role model for young girls."
The Sun

AND ANOTHER THING...
Friends with supermodel Naomi Campbell and has well over a million Twitter followers. Sports a dolphin tattoo on her right ankle and is a descendent of King Charles II. She and her husband barely spoke the same language when they met.


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SEE ALSO
David Cameron's wife is pregnant
22 Mar 10 |  UK Politics
Cameron's wife tells of home life
13 Mar 10 |  UK Politics
Changing role of a political spouse
02 Oct 09 |  UK Politics
Glamorous life of the PM's wife
17 Jul 09 |  UK Politics
Lib Dem leader Clegg has new son
23 Feb 09 |  UK Politics
The Nick Clegg story
19 Dec 07 |  UK Politics


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