Leaders' wives: The not-so-secret weapons

Sarah Brown was first, then Samantha Cameron. Next up is Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, spouse of Nick Clegg

First, Sarah Brown told us of her "hero", the Prime Minister. Again and again, it seemed. Then, Samantha Cameron, it was announced, was entering the fray, revealing in a television interview today how her "Dave" makes a terrible mess in the kitchen, but has never let her down.

And so perhaps it was inevitable that Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, the high-flying international lawyer and mother of Nick Clegg's three boys, who had kept a commendably low profile, would join the leaders' wives' rush to the television studios. It was announced yesterday that she will speak publicly in an ITV documentary about her husband, to be broadcast next weekend. Is there no escape?

The interview was expected to take place over the next few days, but sources say she is expected to give a "thoughtful" appraisal of life with Mr Clegg, rather than a chatty insight into household trivia.

Her entry into the frontline of the election came amid signs of a backlash against the decision to expose Mrs Cameron to an interview on ITV, broadcast today, with Sir Trevor McDonald. Former Labour spin-doctor Lance Price told Sky News it was "really rather tacky" for Mrs Cameron to be paraded before the TV cameras when Tory strategists had made a point about her keeping a low profile.

The decision of all three leaders' wives to give public and personal interviews about the three men vying to be prime minister on 6 May has caused a fierce debate about the role of women in modern British politics.

Yvette Cooper, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, who is married to fellow cabinet minister Ed Balls, a probable contender for the next Labour leadership, told The Independent on Sunday: "Women will make their judgements about what the party policies are, not about individual personalities or their partners. It will be about what the policies are."

Ms Gonzalez Durantez, who has retained her maiden name, has given only one significant interview since her husband became leader. In a guarded performance two years ago, she revealed how he "very bravely" accompanied her to flamenco classes, "because if you see him dancing [flamenco], you'd realise that it's not something he'd normally attempt". Her decision to return to the spotlight shows that the Lib Dems are not immune to the prevailing wisdom that says voters want to know more about their politicians' lives.

Meanwhile, David Cameron's mother, Mary, has also taken part in the ITV documentary about the Tory leader, recalling details of his upbringing – and his eagerness to be heard. She said: "He always had something to say, even when he was five or six. We went on holiday with another family and they said, 'For heaven's sake, can't you shut David up?'"

Sarah Brown

Greatest hit – Scene-stealing introduction of her husband before his speech at the 2008 Labour conference 4/5

Greatest slip – Doing it again in 2009 3/5

Dirty secret/skeleton in cupboard – Is friends with Naomi Campbell. Had youthful liaison with pop star Babel Wallace 1/5

Biggest asset – The SarahBrown10 Twitter account keeps more than a million followers in touch with Downing Street 4/5

Best line – From that speech in 2008: "I'm so proud that every day I see him motivated to work for the best interests of people all around the country" 4/5

Love of limelight – Started off as notoriously shy, now a regular fixture at charity events and fashion shows 5/5

Voter appeal – Mr Brown's greatest asset 4/5

Appeal to women – A down-to-earth working mother and charity supporter 5/5

Samantha Cameron

Greatest hit – Wearing a £65 M&S dress for the Tory conference last year 4/5

Greatest slip – That little M&S number was run up especially for her, as the originals had sold out 4/5

Dirty secret – Dolphin tattoo and a pool-playing friendship with hip hop star Tricky 5/5

Biggest asset – Her high-responsibility job, even if it's at Smythson, and her effortless "upper-class bohemian" style 4/5

Best line – On 14 years of marriage to DC: "I can honestly say that I don't think in all that time he's ever let me down" 4/5

Love of limelight – Until now, looked uncomfortable, even unwilling. Now playing a more central role 3/5

Voter appeal – Aristocratic and slightly flaky, but not quite haughty or horsey 3/5

Appeal to women – A credible career-and-family woman 3/5

Miriam Gonzalez Durantez

Greatest hit – Retaining her serene demeanour while hubby got into knots over his "no more than 30" sexual conquests comment 4/5

Greatest slip – Giving her husband "eight out of 10" for his Spanish did not help his reputation as a linguist 3/5

Dirty secret – Her late father was a senator for the right-of-centre Spanish Popular Party 2/5

Biggest asset – Her devotion to her own high-flying legal career, as well as her family 3/5

Best line – "I have my career and my family to take care of. But, of course, I support Nick 100 per cent" 3/5

Love of limelight – Rarely speaks in public 1/5

Voter appeal – Demure and attractive, but refuses to become a public possession 3/5

Appeal to women – Hard-working career lawyer with three young kids, and has an exotic attraction that rivals both Mrs Cameron and Mrs Brown 5/5

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