openDemocracyUK

The "well groomed" females of Downing Street - how they afford it

A glimpse into the texture of Britain's new Prime Minister and his wife
Anthony Barnett
Anthony Barnett
7 October 2010

For OK readers who don't pick up a free Evening Standard, I can't resist sharing this extract from Anne McElvoy's revealing analysis of the Cameron Downing Street published yesterday. In the light of all the discussion about whether middle Britain earn more or less than £44,000 a year I particularly enjoyed the assumption in the highest levels of government that you need to have additional "money" if you are to be well groomed on £80-100,000pa.

In Birmingham for her husband's leader speech this afternoon, Samantha Cameron has the confidence of knowing her outfits have been checked over by one of the most experienced PR eyes in fashion, in the form of forceful brunette Isabel Spearman. Ms Spearman is the most controversial addition to Team Sam, not least because she has acquired special adviser status -- and is thus funded by the taxpayer. Friends insist she isn't an unnecessary luxury: "One of the worst jobs is making the PM's diary work with his wife's. If they end up having a row about it, you get the flak."

Honed as an international PR manager to the bag designer (and ardent Tory supporter) Anya Hindmarch, Spearman is an ashamedly luxurious creature. She advised Sam how to align her bag with belts and shoes, to get a look "pulled together". Spearman hasn't gone down quite so well with other staff, who describe her as "sort of high-stepping through the corridors in power heels with Sam's diary under her arm". "Pulling rank really," whispers an observer.

Cameron's deputy chief of staff and powerful gatekeeper Kate Fall is said to be "tolerant" of this arrangement and is fond of "Bells", as Spearman is known. But this unexpected presence in Downing Street irks aides, who fear a second Carole Caplin -- Cherie Blair's former Svengali.

The notable change from Labour days is how well groomed every female amanuensis is. "They may be on £80,000-100,000 tops," confides a civil servant, "but they all have money somewhere in the background or a cash-dispenser husband."

So Ms Fall is never less than elegant and over in the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude is happily surrounded by an all-female team of bright and stylish women, including Cameron's old friend Simone Finn, who keeps her party Louboutins under her desk.

Now you know. The "but" made me laugh. It is well worth reading the whole piece.

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