Model (Political) Families
by Mona Bani
As the election draws closer the ‘secret weapons’ of the main party leaders are out on display, and leaving a trail of spent cartridges in their wake. Armed with their perfect political wives, ‘family man’ image and harmonious marriages, displaying just the right balance of hard working professional, hands-on dad and loving husband, Brown, Cameron and Clegg seem set to woo the public. The public however, may not want to be wooed.
A mumsnet panel for The Times felt offended by the ‘political wives’ thing, saying they are being treated as ‘silly women’, and a survey for YouGov reported that SamCam’s pregnancy had little sway on voters. Sophie Elmhirst also comments in New Statesman that it all seems ‘so studied, so dull’ and that an empathy towards SamCam who has to pick up her husband’s dirty socks, like all other devoted wives around the country, will not stimulate a female vote. Despite Sandra Howard expressing her sympathy, claiming that we’d all rightfully stand by our men in times of need, this hardly seems to be the point.
No one would argue against the value of love, loyalty or companionship, especially not at a time where trust in the ethics of politicians is dwindling. In light of the expenses scandal and bankers’ bonuses, showing a sense of humanity, humility and kindness is not the objection, and Sarah Brown and SamCam can be praised for these qualities on an individual level if need be.
Parading the image of the perfect nuclear family in the public’s face seems to be the bigger issue. In a society where one in four families are run by single parents, where marriage is declining, where divorce is increasing and where ministers predict up to 22,000 civil partnerships, only 5 years after its introduction, what is this parade meant to achieve?
If women are inspired to vote based on the marriages of their leaders, then the single, divorced, widowed, gay or childless vote is either cast aside as wholly irrelevant or still up for grabs.
It’s possible that the symbol of nuclear family is meant to make us feel comforted, in awe or even filled with aspiration. But unfortunately it feels much more like moralising guidance or even smugness is being rubbed in the face of our so-called ‘broken society’.