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Power spouses: We look at the partners of the leaders

Who would win if Dave, Ed and Nick's better halves ran for parliament? Rosamund Urwin takes a look at this trio of formidable women

Cameron, Clegg and Miliband - all Oxbridge, all wealthy, all male. But the leaders of the three main parties have something else in common, too: there's a consensus that they're batting above average on the partner front.

"Better halves" doesn't quite cover it: in the eyes of the electorate, Samantha Cameron, Miriam Gonzalez Durantez and Justine Thornton are the Waitrose pheasant pate to their husbands' Tesco value spam.

As Clegg put it last week: "I'd go to bed with Miriam over Ed Miliband, or David Cameron, every single time." Who wouldn't?

So imagine a world in which this superwomen trio weren't the power behind the throne, but held power in their own hands. Where rather than standing silently stage left, they were the ones at the podium.

And in this fictitious femocracy we would be agonising over whom to support for entirely different reasons. So who would win the nation's vote?


Leadership style: Ultra-eloquent, Thornton - a barrister - would win everyone over with her words, rousing speeches and some good moves on the dancefloor.

She has a calm head in a crisis and a rebellious streak: at school, when she feared being caught wearing lipstick, she jumped out of a first-floor window to escape punishment.

Policies: Like her husband, Thornton wouldn't shy away from confronting big business. Currently she is involved in a complex trial where a group of Colombian farmers took on oil titan BP.

Thornton has mostly played the silent spouse but has recently talked about her horror over phone-hacking and her dismay at the viciousness of the attacks on her husband. "I think it's going to get really vicious, really personal, but I'm totally up for this fight ... I think this goes way beyond Ed as an individual - it's about whether decency and principles count for something in political life."

CV: An expert in environmental law, Thornton practises at 39 Essex Street. From 2000 to 2005, she was an adviser to the Government on biotechnology and the environment. She was later chair of SERA, the Labour environment campaign. She read law at Cambridge and was called to the bar in 1994.

Trump cards: Eloquence and intelligence. And she's tough: in 2005 she climbed the 13,671 ft Mount Toubkal in Morocco's Atlas Mountains.

They say: On a visit to her former school, Miliband was asked if he'd have imagined Thornton would one day be his wife: "I would have locked eyes on her but she was obviously too cool."

She says: "I wanted to reassure people I was more than a dress," explaining why she gave a speech at Labour Party conference in 2013.

Bookies' odds 2/1.


Leadership style: A stealth assassin, a poacher-turned-gamekeeper who breaks rules and is unpredictable but wins respect and loyalty.

Sam Cam ain't no typical Tory wife. There's a bit of the bad girl in her, with the dolphin ankle tattoo, the rollie-smoking, and the fact that the actor Dominic West once had a crush on her (in a move that perplexes women everywhere, Sam only had eyes for Dave).

When the pair met she was unconventional and a bit of a hippie: she'd been a wild child while younger and an adolescent Goth.

Policies: If Sam had her perfectly-manicured finger on the nuclear red button the world's tyrants should head for their underground bunkers. She could be a more powerful force on the international stage than chillaxing Dave.

Back in 2013 she reportedly wanted her husband to do more for the victims of Syria's civil war, pushing him towards arming the Syrian rebels in their fight against President Assad. A Save the Children ambassador, Sam came to her views after visiting a refugee camp in the Lebanon.

She was also a big believer in the Big Society, saying in 2010: "It's about local communities taking social responsibility for those communities - everyone coming together and getting involved."

Sam is also staunchly pro-gay rights (she is said to have encouraged her husband to back civil partnerships and the repealing of Section 28), and the original eco-mother - supporting Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth when she first started dating Cameron.

CV: Until her husband took office Sam was creative director of Smythson, the stationery maker that pitches itself as the epitome of British luxury but is now based in two tax havens (Guernsey and Luxembourg).

Though Sam is probably the least politically minded of the three wives (she rarely gives interviews and never talks politics), she has the strongest links to the Commons: her great-grandfather was the Conservative MP Sir Berkeley Sheffield.

Trump cards: Poise, style, party spirit. Last year her birthday party was an Ibiza-style trance rave held at Chequers. Guests included Harry Enfield, Jeremy Clarkson and the designer Karen Millen, while DJ Sarah HB (an abbreviation for "Hard Bitch") was on the decks.

They say: Cameron has called his wife his "secret weapon" and says "[She's] an incredible woman… very, very good in business, she's a brilliant mum..." Helena Bonham Carter, an old friend, says: "Samantha juggles more balls than a multi-armed Indian goddess could cope with."

She says: "I'm a fairly hands-off political wife. I don't get involved in the machinations at all. I don't think he takes my advice about politics. I wouldn't want him to, it would be too much responsibility for me."

Bookies' odds The 10/1 outsider.


Leadership style: The girl's got cojones. Well, not literally; that'd be quite a scoop. The 46-year-old, who famously said men who do childcare have more "cojones", is herself strong, with a "don't mess" manner, yet also utterly charming.

She admits that she has a bit of a temper, too: "I am Mediterranean!" Think Borgen's Birgitte Nyborg, but with a more loyal husband and some Spanish sizzle.

While Cleggmania died swiftly after the great tuition fees betrayal of 2010, Miri-mania is still going strong.

Policies: Women and girls would be right at the centre of a Miriam administration. As the nation's second lady, she has launched the Inspiring Women campaign which connects teenage girls with older female role models. Another of her missions is to get couples to split the childcare and housework more equitably; she said last year that it was only "dinosaurs" who believe men shouldn't look after the children.

Tough girl: An international trade lawyer, Gonzalez Durantez is a partner at Dechert. She earns an estimated £500,000 a year, dwarfing the deputy PM's salary of £134,565.

After attending the University of Valladolid in her native Spain she won a scholarship to study in Bruges where she met Clegg.

Trump cards: Charm, charisma, class and cojones. Oh, and she's a talented pianist: she once performed the Mission Impossible theme tune for me - an apt soundtrack for her husband's role as deputy PM.

They say: Red magazine dubbed her "The thinking woman's girl crush." Clegg, meanwhile, fell in love with her at first sight: "It was total thunderbolt stuff ... [and] I was this pimply Brit trying to impress her."

She says: "If you don't have it [confidence], fake it. Women fake lots of things, no?"

Bookies' odds: Odds on.

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