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Conservative Intelligence

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Samantha Cameron

Last Updated: Friday, June 17th, 2011

Although there is no formal role for the Prime Minister’s wife (or husband) in the UK, there are always going to be times when they are expected to be on display in public and act as a confidante in private.

And thus far, Samantha Cameron has been a model consort, steering clear of controversy (if you don’t count opting not to wear a hat to the Royal Wedding), pursuing her own career, yet also fulfilling family duties and providing much-appreciated support to her husband. She was, for example, much in evidence during the recent visit of the Obamas to the UK.

That said, this week she has in fact been busy fulfilling engagements on her own in Glasgow, including an appearance at the Scottish Fashion Awards and a visit to a social enterprise in the city which trains young people and adults with learning or physical difficulties.

The elder daughter of North Lincolnshire landowner, Sir Reginald Sheffield (8th Baronet), she enjoyed a privileged upbringing – although has been known to play down her background by simply remarking that she comes from Scunthorpe.

She won an art scholarship to Marlborough College and pursued her studies in that area further at Camberwell College of Arts and then Bristol Polytechnic, where she often found herself mixing in quite a bohemian crowd – and it was around that time that she got a dolphin tattooed on her ankle.

She was to meet her future husband through her friendship with his younger sister, Clare, and romance blossomed during a Cameron family holiday in Tuscany in 1992 when he was approaching 26 and she just 21.

They soon became an item and were married in 1996, by which time her career was taking off and before long she had become creative director of Smythsons, the Bond Street stationer; she remained in that post until her husband entered Downing Street, since when she has retained a part-time consultancy there.

Their marriage doubtless suffered additional strains as they coped with the severe disabilities of eldest son, Ivan, who died in February 2009, but they have been blessed with three other children – Nancy, Elwen and Florence – the last of whom was born in Cornwall during the family summer holiday a few months after entering Downing Street last year.

“SamCam” – as the tabloids have christened her – has opted to be a Prime Ministerial spouse more in the Norma Major mould than that of Cherie Blair, generally keeping out of the limelight and staying away from politics. She did however make regular appearances on the campaign trail during the general election, in particular getting involved in the promotion of social action projects, about which she blogged on the party website and talked about online for “WebSamCameron”. She has also involved herself in charity work and hosted receptions for good causes at Downing Street.

But that’s not to say she does not have views which she impresses upon the Prime Minister. David Cameron’s biographers, Francis Elliott and James Hanning, wrote that she is a “powerful influence” on him who “accepted the Tory modernising message before her husband”. Meanwhile, his close friend, the party co-chairman Lord Feldman, is quoted as describing her as “a good barometer” who is “tremendously grounded”, with “a good sense of what is important and what’s not, but also of what’s important to other people”.

Jonathan Isaby

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