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Leaders' Wives May Have Started Off as a Derogatory Term But These Are the Women Who Made It Inspiring

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David Cameron's cabinet re-shuffle came under fire for all sorts of reasons: not enough women, not the right sort of women and grumbles about unnecessary tokenism. (Predictably, you can guess which demographic the latter came from).

Whatever the reasons, we're still left with an overwhelmingly male parliament, where leaders of the three major parties are men.

But while it's not quite the victory we wanted, could ground for the battle of sexes be won elsewhere?

I'm talking about leaders' wives and partners.

Leaders' wives may sound like an antiquated phrase from an era when your boss invited you over for dinner, and in some circles derogatory, even.

But the phrase may be undergoing a revolution, a renaissance, rescuing it from the clutches of matched tableware and stifled public engagements.

After Ed Miliband's wife Justine Thornton impressed a crowd of VIP Labour supporters at a summer drinks party, HuffPost UK's political director Mehdi Hasan posed the question: Is she the Labour leader's secret weapon?

Deemed inspirational, charming and funny by the guests present, her warmth was said to wallpaper over Miliband's gawkiness.

The wives and partners of the men who are currently in power are far from decorative foils, and surely that's something worth celebrating. These women may not be making policy, but they are strong, credible women in their own right.

Justine works as a barrister specialising in environmental law at one of the most prestigious chambers, reportedly dwarfing Miliband's salary by a whopping £70,000. She also juggles motherhood and writes textbooks on her subject.

Miriam González Durántez, Nick Clegg's wife also values own her time as highly as her husband's. Before Clegg was announced as deputy Prime Minister, she was very clear about her involvement: she said she was supportive but wasn't going to be able to take the same time off as Samantha (which already makes her a legend).

A successful lawyer, Miriam has been part of the Inspiring Women campaign to help students and even stuck up for men, saying they needed time and understanding if they wanted to care for their kids. In fact, her exact words were that men who chose to do so had 'more cojones'.

Samantha was already successful in her own right when she met David, as the creative director of Smythson of Bond Street, and currently plays a pivotal role on the British Fashion Council which is vital for pumping new blood into the fashion industry.

If that sounds a bit 'meh', let's not forget her predecessor Cherie Blair who - like her or not - was a highly-respected lawyer who set up an impressive foundation to help empower women around the world. While looking after her kids. And being married to Tony.

And let's not forget our closest allies across the pond. Michelle Obama singlehandedly re-wrote the rule book of a leader's wife who may be in the passenger seat but sure as hell isn't going to just sit back for the ride.

Forget the column inches about her fashion sense and her warmth, Obama's biggest contribution to date is her Let's Move! initiative to tackle childhood obesity in America by tirelessly working to promote healthy eating and exercise.

The bottom line is that as inspiration goes, these women are it. All of them have children and all of them - we're assuming - have to deal with spouses that have a highly pressured role.

Yet despite this, they forge on with their own careers and interests, which are almost always in the interests of the country. (Which they don't have to do and let's face it, most women find a job and kids more than enough to handle at any one time).

While their worth may be trivialised by their ability to mask their partner's shortcomings, I think if we scratch beneath the surface, these women are every bit as inspirational as the women stepping into Parliament, and calling them leaders' wives doesn't diminish it one bit.

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