Why are we so obsessed with the life and times of politician’s partners?
THE HARD WORD | Why our obsession with our leader’s partners? Is it terribly vain to be so interested in those who are in relationships with our elected politicians? Or is this knowledge a crucial piece of the puzzle in swaying our vote?
FOLLOWING the dramatic ousting of Nicolas Sarkozy by president-elect Francois Hollande in France last weekend, to become the first Socialist president since 1988, a friend of mine (female) decried her sadness, not at the result, but at the thought of life without Carla Bruni as first lady.
For any of you who paid even the slightest attention to the French presidential election, unprecedented for so many reasons, you could have been forgiven for feeling as though the country’s first lady was a far more important discussion point.
Indeed, for some, it was.
But it begs the question. Why our obsession with our leader’s partners? Is it terribly vain to be so interested in those who are in relationships with our elected politicians? Or is this knowledge a crucial piece of the puzzle in swaying our vote?
Mr Hollande and journalist-girlfriend Valerie Trierweiler have been together since 2005, but only openly since 2007, when his relationship with fellow Socialist Segolene Royal was publicly ended.
Trierweiler can’t technically be called the ‘first lady’, given she is not married to the president-elect. She is the first unmarried woman in France’s history to be in that position.
The 47-year-old mum of three is twice-divorced, a journalist at Paris Match and an attractive woman. Not so much in the style of glamorous former supermodel turned singer-songwriter Carla Bruni, yet Ms Trierweiler will bring her own sense of style to the Elysee Palace (or wherever they choose to live).
But do we really care?
UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s wife Samantha is constantly the focus of the British press for typically no other reason than what she is wearing. The 41-year-old has three children with Mr Cameron. Justine Thornton, the wife of leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband is derided as much as Ms Cameron is praised in some quarters, for her “understated” style, and has two children.
Arguably the most talked about first lady in the history of global politics is Michelle Obama. Type in her name in Google and it returns a staggering 358 million results. Websites have been set up posting photos of what Mrs Obama wears on a daily basis. The 48-year-old (unlike those mentioned immediately above) is an actively public woman. Her influence, her stature and her ethics are seen by some as just as profound, if not more, than her husbands, the 44th incumbent President of the United States, Barack Obama. There is an insatiable appetite for Mrs Obama, the first African-American first lady of the White House.
And what of our fair nation’s first lady, whoops, sorry ‘first bloke’ Tim Mathieson? The first response you get when you search for Mathieson on Google is ‘Tim Mathieson gay’. Mathieson is a former hairdresser, and divorcee with three adult children, one alleged to be a ‘love child’ from his younger years. Mathieson has been ridiculed from pillar to post since his partner’s sudden rise to the position of Prime Minister of Australia in 2010, for being, well, a bit of a ‘man’s man’.
So what does it all mean? What does it say about the press and we as consumers?
It’s difficult not to approach all of this with slight trepidation. The Obamas are frankly a whole different entity, but for the rest of those mere mortals, it is a sad state when partners of elected members of parliament are focused on to within an inch of their lives. Of course such nonsense harks back decades to the days of Jacqueline Kennedy, but that doesn’t make it any more appropriate.
The cult of celebrity has grown to monumental proportions over recent years, but this scribe finds it difficult to understand why the life and times of our politician’s partners is deemed so relevant. Why the endless vicious smears? Why does it matter what our first lady (or bloke) is wearing? Why does it matter that our Prime Minister isn’t married? Why does it matter that the opposition leader’s wife dresses “plainly?”
It doesn’t. Can we just focus on the politics, please.
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