Sarah, product of a comprehensive who graduated to the Labour elite

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Indy Politics

She has strong Labour roots, finely-honed PR skills and even a penchant for Raith Rovers football club. If anyone was going to melt the Iron Chancellor's heart, it was Sarah Macaulay.

She has strong Labour roots, finely-honed PR skills and even a penchant for Raith Rovers football club. If anyone was going to melt the Iron Chancellor's heart, it was Sarah Macaulay.

Born in Beaconsfield in October 1963, Ms Macaulay is the eldest of three children. She attended Acland Burghley comprehensive school in Tufnell Park, north London, and Camden High School for Girls.

Here she met Julia Hobsbawm, daughter of distinguised Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm. Ms Macauley studied psychology at Bristol University, then she and Ms Hobsbawm set up their PR company, Hobsbawm Macaulay.

As well as the Labour Party, the firm's client list has included such good causes as the Medical Foundation for the Victims of Torture and the Runnymede Trust. Ms Macaulay was one of the first 75 women to sign a banner marking the launch of Emily's List, the campaign led by Barbara Follett to increase the number of women MPs at Westminster.

The new Mrs Brown, 36, began dating her man more than six years ago when her company was called in to prepare a fund-raising dinner for the Labour party. The then Shadow Chancellor was an unlikely husband, having repeatedly spurned the possibility of marriage with a string of ladies.

Mr Brown had spent 13 years with Marion Caldwell, an Edinburgh lawyer, and shorter spells with the exotic Princess Margarita of Romania and TV presenter Sheena Macdonald.

But Sarah Jane Macaulay was determined to get her man and, despite his famous dislike of publicity about his private life, persuaded him to meet her regularly at the Soho House in London. Their relationship was secret for more than a year, but Mr Brown first went public in the Daily Mail in 1995, when he said: "I do have a relationship at the moment, but I don't think she'd appreciate me talking about it."

Guided by the careful hand of Mr Brown's then spin doctor, Charlie Whelan, the couple first "came out" with a staged photograph for the News of the World just before his first Budget in 1997.

One of Sarah's friends said the Chancellor wanted to "formalise" the relationship so she could visit his flat in 10 Downing Street without "ducking and diving out the back door".

Speculation about impending nuptials became a hardy perennial of Westminster gossip, with one story claiming Ms Macaulay had tried to use a leap year to pop the question herself. John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, even teased the pair at the end of a speech to the Labour Party conference in 1998. "Gordon - forget prudence and name the day for Sarah. She's a lovely lass!" he said.

Ms Macaulay continued her own PR campaign to improve Mr Brown's image, getting him to stop biting his nails, indulge in expensive haircuts and purchase more impressive suits.

But over the past year or so, the relationship appeared to have gone off the boil, with some of Mr Brown's Cabinet colleagues convinced it had ended.

Although the world was told this week that the Chancellor had proposed in January, at that time his allies were busy fending off claims that he had told friends: "She's not the one."

By yesterday, such a rumour was thoroughly discredited and Ms Macaulay's PR brain was already proving useful. She managed to persuade him to agree to the photo-call and the long-awaited snap of That Kiss.

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