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UK election becomes a family affair


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Since this was in my yahoo paper - thought I would pass it along to the other side of the pond.


One wants to dispel the notion that he's half-man, half-machine. The other wants to banish the notion that he's too posh for office. So in a break with tradition, the men fighting to become Britain's prime minister are turning to their wives for help.


Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his challenger David Cameron both have image problems that they're tackling in a way the British electorate isn't used to seeing: by dispatching their spouses to the campaign trail.


The Labour Party's Brown is seen by some as a cold, distant grouch. Enter Sarah Brown, his articulate and approachable spouse, to add a warm, human dimension.


Conservative leader Cameron ? fighting some voters' perception that he is a spoiled rich kid from Britain's most elite private school ? has deployed his sunny wife Samantha to soften his "posh boy" reputation, despite the fact she herself is a distant relative of King Charles II.


The result is a British campaign in which the candidates' spouses are in the spotlight as never before, giving the race a bit more of a U.S. flavor, reminding voters of how Michelle Obama's appeal helped her husband move into the Oval Office.


For an unpredictable election in which polls suggest no one party may win an outright majority, the candidates are using every advantage they can muster.


Many of the millions of undecided voters targeted by the campaigns are women, who worry about what the ballot will mean to their families.


"Using their wives is a cheap way of trying to appeal to women," said Steven Fielding of Nottingham University who recently conducted a poll among working class women. "They try to make their partners out to be nice family men and husbands but this isn't a way to connect with working class women who may vote. A lot of these women are just trying to make ends meet."


Sarah Brown is a former public relations executive who is traveling the campaign trail with her husband. She provides regular updates on Twitter ? she has more than 1.1 million followers ? allowing a peek behind No. 10's famous black door.


She provides an open counterpoint to Brown, who was once accused of ignoring a question from concerned mothers on what his favorite cookie is. (The eventual answer: anything with chocolate, but he's trying to cut down.) She, on the other hand, draws a picture of a cozy home life, telling the world how they watch movies, dote on their children, and go for walks together. In a column for the Mirror, Sarah Brown revealed their young sons, John and Fraser, surprised their dad with "a lovely big hug" after he announced the election call.


"The issue that Brown is trying to overcome is the impression he's half-man, half-machine," said Andrew Hawkins of polling firm ComRes, "and for David Cameron to demonstrate that he is principled and there's some substance under the style."


Samantha Cameron is also trying to show her husband as a normal guy ? despite the fact that her background is even more aristocratic than his. Like many of the voters her husband is wooing, she's a working mother ? the creative director of an upmarket retailer ? who looks after two kids and has another on the way.


But things don't always go to plan: SamCam, as she's known in the tabloids, was chided in the British press for popping in to visit her father, Sir Reginald Sheffield, just before a campaign stop last week. The Times reported that "her attempts at classlessness were slightly undermined" when she had lunch at his 3,000-acre Thealby Hall estate.

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Frankly my dear, I couldn't care less if the candidates are all closet peados, as long as they have a mind of their own, that carries some convictions and principles. Sad thing is; they'll all be trooping down to Westminister on May 7th like automatons, all religiously putting their hands up at the behest of their leaders and their Party Whips - might as well train a monkey to do it! :wink:

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