Belfast Telegraph

Let's belt up about SamCam and focus on real female political players instead

By Lindy McDowell

Whatever you say about Kim Jung Un and the slavishly gushing North Korean media, it is hard to imagine a double page spread in the Pyongyang Daily Gazette or whatever, devoted entirely to a photographic tribute to the Great Leader's wife's belt collection.

Sadly with two weeks to go to the Westminster election, we have already hit that particular low in the UK. A national newspaper obviously short of more compelling news from the hustings, recently brought us a two-page insight into Samantha Cameron's waist-clinching options.

In fairness, it did not look as though the idea for the spread came from Tory spin HQ. At a time when the rest of us have been belt-tightening in a much more real sense, the totting up of the eye-watering sum (thousands, apparently) that Mrs C has spent on belts - leather, metallic, designer, high street, you name it - is surely of dubious help to her husband's campaign.

On the other hand, SamCam is reported to be faring well in the popularity polls. Which is why we've been seeing so very much of her of late. Her and her belts.

And Mrs Miliband and her kitchen. And Mrs Clegg and her baby kissing skills.

With that fortnight still to go until the election, we've already reached saturation point with coverage of party leaders and their adoring womenfolk, their never-otherwise-seen children, their sharing of "intimate family moments" (ie pretending to make the tea) and their expensive kitchen gadgetry.

It's all done to make these male politicians (they are always male) look "human" when we know fine rightly that they are anything but. They are aliens from Planet Politics and no amount of forced smiles and grim chucking of the cheeks of babes in arms is going to dispel that notion.

Or posing in kitchens with homely mugs of tea. Or ensuring wives are on hand at every photo opportunity to gaze upon them with Hillary Clinton-esque adoration.

What is wrong with these women, these clever, successful, allegedly feminist women, that they allow themselves to be portrayed as the simpering, wifey equivalent of a fawning North Korean general clapping like a sea-lion at Mr Kim's every utterance?

Well, okay, we know the answer to that one.

Like their husbands, they are gagging for the tenancy of Number 10. But good God girls, have a bit of self-respect.

Yes, newspaper and magazine readers do lap up the stories and dissection of their fashion choices. (The cliched, safest option appears to be Zara which is not only cool and sufficiently on trend but is also high street enough to quieten the price tag critics. Or should be, so long as Samantha Cameron doesn't put a belt on it.) But in terms of the message being sent about women's place in the political arena it's like something from a 1950s handbook on the dutiful role of the little woman behind the great man.

And okay, Samantha, Miriam and Justine are partners not actually politicians themselves. But so, too, is Kirsten Farage, who resolutely refuses to play the adoring wifey to her man and wisely keeps out of the limelight.

Mrs Farage has dismissed the traditional routine of leader's wife kissing him on stage after the big speech as "really quite sad". You don't have to want to vote for Nigel to admire Kirsten.

And you don't have to want to vote for Nicola Sturgeon to admire that woman's undeniable clout. True, we've had a bit about how she's emerged from boxy jacket frumpiness into SNP style queen. But most coverage of la Sturgeon has focused on her policies. Not her accessories. She is stepping into the category of Thatcher and Merkel. Proper political players.

Tellingly, Ms Sturgeon has been dubbed "the most dangerous woman in Britain" by the same newspaper that devoted that double-page spread to SamCam's belt collection.

Dangerous? Surely that's a massive compliment. Whereas two pages on your belts? As the headline writers themselves might say - what a waist!

Has Putin faced up to age-old problem?

Has Vladimir Putin had work done? There have been rumours for some time now that the po-faced Russian hardman has had some help of the cosmetic variety in order to maintain his ... well ... po-faced look.

A few years back he was beginning to show his age. Now he looks like he could give Katie Price a run for her money.

He hasn't gone down the trout pout route - just yet, anyway - but his face is now as smooth as a Kremlin denial statement. Maybe it is, as his defenders claim, just a trick of light. Really? I can think of a few ageing luvvies who would be only too happy to pay big money for such a flattering "trick of light".

Beeb in wrong gear over Clarkson tour

Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May are heading to Belfast soon as part of their not-the-Top-Gear tour.

After Clarkson was dumped by the Beeb following his steakgate meltdown, we were reliably informed (I am quoting here from the BBC website) that while the planned tour would go ahead, so as not to disappoint the fans (fair point), "the gigs will be stripped of all BBC branding and content and will be called Clarkson, Hammond and May Live".

Hmmm ... has anyone told the marketing people? I only ask because I've seen the Belfast gig advertised on both a billboard and even on the side of a bus as "the BBC's Top Gear live tour". Odd, no?

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