Wife of Tory MP: Fine line between supporting spouse and having power

‘Spouses may advise but politicians decide’: Glamorous opera-singing wife of Tory MP Andrew Bridgen says it’s a fine line between supporting your spouse and wielding too much power amid claims Carrie is pulling No 10’s strings

Political spouses are making headlines around the world these days.

As the globe waits to see if Melania will walk off in her Louboutins to Mar-A-Lago or act as Trump’s ‘voice of reason’ and convince her husband to step down peacefully, attention in Westminster has turned firmly to Carrie Symonds and the power she wields.

How much influence does she have? Was Lee Cain sacked or did he resign in the latest uncivil war in British politics? And what does Carrie – who clearly has a significant influence on Boris – have to do with it?

We, the political spouses and partners, are the first responders to smooth things out, pick up the broken pieces and to provide a different perspective on the Westminster bubble when things get tough.


Nevena Bridgen (pictured with her husband, Andrew Bridgen): Political spouses are making headlines around the world these days

That is a fact of life. But what about policy and the decisions over who gets fired and hired? Should we get involved in this decision making and if so, surely there should be a line we should not cross?

Or should we break the traditional code of silence and go beyond being a quiet accessory – the ‘good wife’ – if we are professionally qualified to express a view?

I’ve been on both sides of the conversation. When I talked my husband Andrew Bridgen into mending the very public fallout with James Cleverly, in Westminster circles, I was a subject of high praise.

We, the political spouses and partners, are the first responders to smooth things out, pick up the broken pieces and to provide a different perspective on the Westminster bubble when things get tough. Pictured: Nevena Bridgen and husband Andrew

But when I talked about a senior politician shushing me over dinner for voicing my views about the impact of Brexit on the art world, many approached my husband to tell him to ‘put his wife on a leash’.

As an international opera singer, I was qualified to talk about the issues affecting artists in the Brexit aftermath, but for some, that was considered beyond my role of political spouse.

Flash forward to today. I hear many saying Carrie Symonds should not interfere with the appointment of Boris Johnson’s new Chief of Staff.

When I talked about a senior politician shushing me over dinner for voicing my views about the impact of Brexit on the art world, many approached my husband to tell him to ‘put his wife on a leash’

‘She’s not elected!’ people cry. Well, if you ask me, neither is Dominic Cummings.

Carrie, as a former Comms Director of the Conservative Party is perfectly qualified to comment on the success of the No.10’s communications strategy.

But, crucially, unlike Cummings she is not employed in any official role at No.10.

When is the time to step back and let your partner – the elected politician – do his job?

Being a politician is not a normal role that one leaves aside when he or she comes home, that I can tell you.

When is the time to step back and let your partner – the elected politician – do his job?

In my experience, a politician becomes his job, and like it or not, it is something that we, political wives and partners, get involved in. Our children get affected and there are times when we must air our opinions.

If politics is interfering with personal life, or compromising your spouse, then yes, by all means, go ahead and voice your views.

Share your advice but know it’s not up to us to make that final call. It’s not our call to make.

In my experience, a politician becomes his job, and like it or not, it is something that we, political wives and partners, get involved in

If politics is interfering with personal life, or compromising your spouse, then yes, by all means, go ahead and voice your views

That’s the line we shouldn’t cross, and if we don’t know where that line is, our other halves should have a clear idea of where the boundary lies.

Using the great examples of Denis Thatcher or Philip May to point out how Carrie should reel in her views, the real point is that some spouses may appear reserved in public but are actually far more powerful behind the scenes.

The whisper in our circles was that Philip May – a perfect gentleman in my opinion – was a silent supporter of his wife in public, but hugely influential when it came to financial advice on Brexit.

In the end, it is for the politician, whoever it is, to know where to draw the line, as they are elected and that’s a fact. Spouses may advise but politicians decide.

Tread carefully as in the game of politics, the winners are on the up-and-up only when they’re winning. When the chips go down, so can the legacy.

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