She looks so harmless, doesn’t she, with her friendly woman-I-always-see-in-the-greengrocers smile, her twitter account and her unmistakeable air of Bodenity*. Even her name is pleasantly, inoffensively commonplace.
But Sarah Brown has a plan. I know this because the Guardian Media Group have spent the last week marching through my nightmares shouting “SARAH BROWN WANTS TO BE A POLITICIAN.”
Take a look at this. It’s a link to all the Guardian/Observer’s articles tagged with Sarah Brown. See? Up until summer this year, normal coverage. Charities, blah, veal, blah, G20, blah, looking badly-dressed next to Carla, looking boring and undynamic next to Michelle. In July, there was a potshot from Tanya Gold about her appearance in some Tatler barf-list or other (“A magazine that thinks David Cameron, Sarah Brown and Princess Beatrix are among the coolest people in the world has got a very big problem”). Then nothing for a couple of months, and then, suddenly, on Saturday 19th September, something that in retrospect looks suspiciously like groundwork.
How London Fashion Week got its groove back – with a little help from Sarah Brown
Is that the scraping of a shoehorn I can hear? The first paragraph says:
Downing Street tonight hosted a strategically-timed celebration party for British fashion talent, illustrating how important Sarah Brown has been in the extraordinary comeback this year for London fashion week, which started yesterday.
Did everybody get that? Or should we send it back to the subs for more awkward mid-clause insertions? On the following day in the Observer, Gaby Hinsliff notes Brown’s “increasing influence”:
…behind the scenes she has become an increasingly powerful influence – a trusted partner, who sits in meetings with ministers…
Hm. Since when was it a good thing that unelected people got to wield power in government? I thought we were all supposed to hate Peter Mandelson, Labour supporters included, for precisely that reason. Did I miss a memo, or is it just because Mandelson doesn’t look like he’d chat to you in the greengrocers (does he need real food anyway?)?
But all that is nothing to the emetic we’re presented with the following weekend, Friday 25th:
Can Sarah Brown rescue Labour?
She has transformed from a near-silent political wife to arguably the most admired and powerful woman in Britain…
Bu- Fn- Wh- What in the name of gibbering incomprehension are you talking about? “Arguably”? Ya think? Sarah Beeny has more traction, never mind Lily Allen (of whom more anon). Seriously, I am a wizened political punter and I know absolutely nothing about this woman that wouldn’t fit comfortably on a postage stamp and be about as interesting. Have I just been deposited here from a parallel dimension? More to the point, has the Observer?
How did she do it? And can her extraordinary reinvention help save the Labour party?
Yes, they have definitely, definitely lost it. As my friend Carl puts it on his Facebook status update (thanks, Carl, I will now steal your words):
Guardian: Is Sarah Brown the most powerful woman in Britain? Carl: The answer is the same as when the Observer asked the question on Sunday. No. Still, commendable recycling.
Their accompanying picture gallery of Sarah Brown Being Important is unlikely enough, but there is perhaps no finer evidence of a left-wing commentariat headed for la-la land than the faux-chunky paragraph of reasons why Sarah Brown is… whatever it is they’re trying to imply she is. It includes such gems as “She cooks lasagne for cabinet ministers who need charming… She grows organic vegetables in Downing Street’s garden.” We are told she is “close to Michelle Obama”, whatever that is supposed to mean.
Seriously, without wishing to take away from the charity work that also litters the paragraph, come on. She does nice things for charities and gets about the PR I would expect a PM’s wife to get in the modern age. Let’s not look desperate by trying to big her up as some sort of political powerplayer whose super world-saving skillz include raising an adequate tomato.
But it gets worse, because Sarah also has form in the one great area of national affairs always guaranteed to get the Guardian salivating – she’s got a lot of followers on Twitter:
Prime minister’s wife overtakes Stephen Fry with 774,000 followers on social networking service.
Yes folks, you read it here first, the Labour party now has more reach than Stephen Fry. That’s all right then. The left is saved. Incidentally, this piece of “news” made it to Liberal Conspiracy under the following headline:
@SarahBrown10 now UK’s top tweeter
And the first paragraph contains as splendid an example of of doublethink as you’ll find anywhere on the internet:
The Prime Minister’s wife, Sarah Brown, has overtaken Stephen Fry as the top high-profile Tweeter. Though she is still short of musician Lily Allen.
So, as the commenters pointed out, that would be second to top high-profile Tweeter, then.
Of course, it was inevitable that this puzzling deification would quickly spill over into self-parody, but I’m genuinely at a loss to know whether Deborah Summers on the Politics Blog is poking a bit of fun at her colleagues with this one:
…despite the White House’s best attempts to quash suggestions of a snub, it is difficult to imagine how else you could take five refusals of a meeting with the prime minister.
So what could have changed the president’s mind?
Could it have been the unstoppable Sarah Brown, the woman with more Twitter followers than even Stephen Fry, who clinched it for the prime minister?
And a picture of the four of them, in a row, arms round each other, grinning like the human four-fifths of the Famous Five, with Sarah and Barack clasping hands in the middle. No, you are kidding me, right? This is a bet to see how long we all swallow this garbage without bringing it right back up again? Must be.
But, I dunno. It was Debs who wrote the Twitter article in the first place. Incidentally, if you click into the Sarah Brown Being Important picture gallery I alluded to above, you’ll find that the permalink reads “sarah-brown-popular-twitter”. Say, it’s almost like someone’s trying to start a meme, isn’t it?
So what’s the deal? Has the Guardian’s dogged search for reasons to vote Labour taken another more desperate turn than ever before? Actually, I think not. They’re really not that stupid. And a couple of the key commentators have openly given up on Labour now. No, this is Sarah herself isn’t it – she is a PR person, after all, and knows how to get things into newspaper, and knows how to construct a wave of them, in the right order, saying the right things. Saving Labour? Or just setting herself up for politics?
Finally – and I’m not making this up – in the time it’s taken me to write this post, another article has appeared under the Sarah Brown tag:
Sarah Brown’s bold wardrobe reflects her growing confidence
Well, after all, tomatoes can be tricky little sods, can’t they – tsh-bm! And in case you were wondering, yes, this does appear in the politics section.
Groomed and polished, she looked every inch an asset to both the Labour party and to the fashion world.
Ok, now I am going to be sick. This is just awful. Somebody stop her.
1.Possessing the quality of being inoffensively middle class, and appreciative of well-cut dresses.
2. (perj.) An assumed air of supposed wholesome friendliness and honesty which actually conceals self-reverential smugness.
3. Relating to a tendency to leap into the air smiling whilst wearing a selection of weekend-friendly clothing.
See also, Boden Dad, n., a middle class male species that to all intents and purposes grows offspring on its shoulders.