Public to private and back again: the role of politicians’ wives in British election campaign coverage

2015-12-10T11:18:15Z (GMT) by Emily Harmer
The wives of politicians are a longstanding feature of electoral campaign coverage in the UK, and yet until now there has been no systematic study examining their role and mediated representation in political reporting. By drawing upon a sample of 630 newspaper items from five daily newspapers, this article will demonstrate that between 1918 and 2010 the representation of political wives has changed in three main ways. Firstly, their role in the campaign process changed from focusing more on their political function as active campaigners, to becoming more focused on their private lives. Secondly the coverage has narrowed from focusing on a broad range of politicians’ wives, to being centred almost entirely on the spouses of political party leaders. The final change is that the press reportage of politicians’ spouses has become increasingly negative and critical of their presence on the campaign trail.