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Paper Monitor

10:28 UK time, Wednesday, 29 September 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Behind every man, they say, there's a great woman.

This aphorism, it appears, is taken by newspapers as an instruction to focus on newsworthy gentlemen's wives and partners - with the focus very strictly on their role as wives and partners.

The Times, indeed, chooses to cover the forthcoming Ryder Cup with the minimum-possible mentions for all that boring golf and those Pringle jumpers.

It describes [subscription required] instead a "battle of the WAGS" as Gaynor Montgomerie, wife of Europe captain Colin, prepares to confront Lisa Pavin, the "self-styled 'Captainess' of the United States team". Mrs Pavin, it transpires, is "the highest-profile wife yet for the event [what, higher even than Mrs, er, the last one?] and has spent the past two years preparing intently for her husband Corey's big moment".

What else is a dutiful (female) spouse to do, after all? Mrs Montgomerie has, by contrast, adopted a "minimum fuss approach to the role", a tactic which we are led to infer stems from her husband confessing that he had had an affair some months after their "fairytale wedding".

The report continues:

For some wronged wives, the Ryder Cup might have been an opportunity for revenge and Mrs Montgomerie could have opted to kit the European WAGs out in lurid pantaloons and fed her husband bad jokes for his rousing speech. Instead, she is serenely performing her patriotic duty, following in a fine tradition of spouses who have put the Cup before anything else.


Another lady elevated to the spotlight by her choice of companion is Justine Thornton, who happens to pass the time as a high-flying environmental lawyer but is, from a Fleet Street perspective, of keen interest as the partner of the new leader of the opposition.

The Labour-supporting Daily Mirror's "fashion and beauty director" Amber Morales is wheeled out to praise the "mini-makeover" Ms Thornton had undergone since her partner defeated his brother on Saturday, the new first lady of the centre-left now looking "reassuringly down to earth" in a £45 maternity dress from Top Shop and a "new fashionably short cropped hairstyle".

The Daily Mail, of contrasting political disposition, goes yet further in its scrutiny of this trip to the High Street and the hairdresser.

A large photograph of Ms Thornton adorns the cover, while pages eight and nine are dominated by "before" and "after" shots of Ms Thornton. Her appearance is dissected in forensic detail by columnist Jan Moir, who gravely informs us that during the leadership campaign the future Mrs Miliband turned up to events appearing "to have dressed herself from a North London charity shop".

In the same paper, Sandra Parsons offers a mea culpa on behalf of her profession:

Once you become the leader of a major party, the personal does indeed become become the political, because how you live your life describes to some extent the sort of character you are. This is why the wives of leaders (and it is still mostly wives: we are a long way off from another Mrs Thatcher) find themselves under scrutiny - with regrettable consequences.

That other aphorism about women and men - the one about the former needing the latter like a fish needs a bicycle - doesn't look as though it will catch on any time soon.

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