For ever after William's wife

Forget about trying to be hip or independent, Laura Tennant tells Ffion Jenkins, your role is cut out for you
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The Independent Online
Ffion. Fee-on. Fee fi fo fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman. Ffion Jenkins, 29, the future Mrs William Hague, will soon be alone at last with her fish knives and the knowledge that in four-and-a-half years' time she will either be the premier's consort or the wife of an opposition backbench MP.

She must really love him. So far, for this man with the face of an ancient baby and the voice of a chirpy provincial DJ, she has sacrificed a) her handsome, high-earning ex-boyfriend (or future equivalent); b) her Welsh credibility (Hague doesn't exactly play well in the Valleys); c) any pretensions she might have had towards cool; d) ever getting drunk again in public; e) any chance of avoiding Baroness Thatcher. She must really, really love him. Either that or she's very square indeed. (Ffion, if you're out there: stop reading now. I'm going to be rude about you because you're in the public eye. I'm sure you're a perfectly nice woman but you're about to marry William Hague and bad notices are only the start of your problems.)

The indications are that she's probably both (square and in love). To summarise: makes a big thing of being Welsh, comprehensive education, swot at Oxford, goes into the Civil Service, anxious to be thought of as a party girl but shoots herself in the foot by joining deeply embarrassing SWS (Social, Welsh and Sexy) group, no dress sense. Not exactly cutting edge, is it?

So far, Ffion has been described as "the Liz Hurley of Milk Wood" (by the Sunday Telegraph), "having the figure of Marilyn Monroe" (by her dressmaker) and being "Oxbridge bright" (by the Daily Mail). Sorry, but no. No good will come of these attempts to talk up Ms Jenkins as a sex goddess with a brain the size of a planet. She is an averagely intelligent and attractive young woman, and none the worse for that. Make her out to be something more and people like me will just be unpleasant.

If I was in her shoes (and goodness knows I'd rather be in Sarah Macaulay's "any day", as they say on Blind Date), the first thing I would do is give up the pretence that I was going to have an independent life. Perhaps it was possible once to disappear into the domestic or professional shadows, but not now when a politician's entire family is merely an extension of his image. Whatever Ffion does, conclusions will be drawn about William, so if she wants him to get elected, she may as well bite the bullet. They want sprogs? Give 'em sprogs. The sooner the better. One imagines that the conversations they've had about their future have not included: "Darling, you just do your own thing and never mind the beastly press and horrid party membership. You go ahead and convert to Scientology, don't mind me."

Besides, Ffion is already and willingly being groomed for Shadow First Ladyship. Witness the photocall for that lace dress at conference (note to Ffion's style consultant: nude tights are not wise unless you have legs up to your armpits); the snaps with kids and animals; the visit to Carnival (sad honkies, frankly, is the phrase that springs to mind). Ffion is not behaving like a woman who wants to pursue her professional career and let her husband get on with his.

Then there's the "friend" who told one journalist: "Ffion Jenkins is a modern woman, she would never dream of being a professional wife. In fact, she's worried her association with him could damage her career prospects." To which the only response is: "Come off it, love." Damage? I hardly think so. Some of us may not feel William represents a particularly attractive package, but not Ffion and her sister Manon, whose notorious sibling rivalry apparently came to an end when Ffion got engaged - with Manon conceding defeat. In the Jenkins family Hague counts as top-husband material and, objectively speaking, being Leader of the Opposition is probably quite grand, even when they're as sorry an opposition as the Conservatives. Power and influence does it for some people, I'm told.

So Ffion will hold down her new job as director of operations at the Association for Business Sponsorship and the Arts and not give interviews for fear she might seem cleverer than her husband. She is in the peculiar, or perhaps just traditional, position of at once being a recognised asset to the party and at the same time having to repudiate any undue influence over William. But there is one area where she can have a really positive effect. She can stop this gruesome attempt on his part to be hip. No Conservative has ever been cool and there's an end to the matter. Away with the baseball cap, the visits to pop music awards and street festivals, the hanging out with the brothers. Square and loving it must be.

It has been pointed out in the past that Ffion lacks a role model. There's Cherie, of course, but she's a grown-up, and was already established as a heavyweight when her husband came to prominence. William and Ffion belong to the latest generation of young, Oxbridge-educated, urban, professional, power couples, and over the next five years their marriage will have to embody everything Hague wants to say about Conservatism. It will have to seem young, modern, unstuffy and compassionate. But, please God, don't make it have to seem trendy.

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