Scottish Daily Mail

Why Mr and Mrs May had to call it a day


- Craig Brown

Celebrity marriages have a habit of breaking up rather too soon. the separation of brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie is neither the first, nor the last. years ago, when Kenneth and Venus Williams split up after only a few days, friends said that the Carry On actor and the Wimbledon tennis star were ill-suited from the start. ‘i hated the silly strangulat­ed exclamatio­ns Kenneth would make every time i served an ace,’ Venus confirmed. in turn, Kenneth grumbled in his diary that ‘i wish she’d stop that dreadful grunting!’

it is easy to underestim­ate the pressures of power. liam and Samantha Fox survived her years as a Page three pin-up, but when liam entered politics he seemed embarrasse­d to have someone so curvaceous at his side, preferring to be seen in public with his more streamline adviser Adam Werritty.

Others do their best to soldier on. For years, the marriage of Owen and Maggie Smith survived the actress’s appearance­s in Downton Abbey — so at odds with the egalitaria­n spirit of the modern labour Party — but it will be interestin­g to see whether it can also survive the rough and tumble of his recent failed leadership bid.

Some considered Maggie’s recent appearance in tiara, ballgown and pearl necklace at the labour Party conference as at odds with Smith’s carefully calculated man-of-thepeople image. Others felt she made a tactical error in rounding on labour delegates for their ‘disgracefu­l impertinen­ce’ in voting for ‘that common little Corbyn’ rather than her husband.

Of course, the marriage of former spin doctor Alastair Campbell and his wife, lady Colin, was never going to be plain sailing. both had fierce tempers, and were prone to ‘sounding off’. in one row, ostensibly over labour’s plans for a half-per-cent increase in interest rates, lady Colin Campbell called Alastair a ‘filthy guttersnip­e’ over dinner in the White House, to the grave embarrassm­ent of their hosts, President George W. bush and his singer-songwriter wife Kate.

As childhood sweetheart­s, brian and theresa May seemed ideally suited for the long haul. they shared a pride in their appearance — brian with his trademark curls, theresa with her kitten heels — but their partnershi­p foundered on brian’s relentless compulsion to interfere.

Making her way as a junior opposition spokesman, theresa May prepared her first keynote speech at a tory conference with meticulous care. So imagine her surprise, when, halfway through her second paragraph, the air was filled by the distinctiv­e twang of husband brian’s lead guitar.

‘it really killed poor theresa’s speech stone dead,’ reported one observer. ‘you couldn’t hear a word of long-term economic analysis beneath brian’s blistering rendition of We Are the Champions.’

throughout the coming months, brian tried to steal the show whenever theresa was speaking. things came to a head in 2003 when he interrupte­d her second reading of the Anti-Social behaviour bill by playing Another One bites the Dust at full volume on the top of big ben. the marriage ended shortly afterwards. Happily, theresa went on to marry the quieter, less showy Phil May, former lead singer with the Pretty things. Comedy and politics seldom mix well, as was proven by the shortlived marriage of Josh and Ann Widdecombe. Over on the labour benches, Diane Abbott was often hindered by her comedian husband Russ’s irrepressi­ble sense of fun. ‘Whenever we were in the middle of an internal party dispute, Russ would force us all to join him in a spirited rendition of his lyrics, “i love a party with a happy atmosphere,”’ recalls elder statesman roy Hattersley.

‘He meant well, but most of delegates would have felt more at home singing “We’ll keep the red flag flying high”, so somehow it made matters worse. Diane grew increasing­ly upset and retaliated by interrupti­ng Russ’s comedy routines at the london Palladium with long rambling speeches about the need to bring the railways back into public ownership.’

AS FOREIGN Secretary, boris Johnson may find that American citizens refuse to forget his stormy first marriage to lady bird Johnson. Of course, their age disparity — 52 years between them — was always going to present a hurdle, but the chief stumbling block was his use of language. A texan born and bred, lady bird had grown used to the plain, unvarnishe­d talk of her first husband. She simply couldn’t understand a word boris said.

Whenever boris exclaimed, ‘Cripes!’ or ‘Crikey!’ or ‘Yaroo!’, which was most of the time, she simply looked baffled. but, then again, as brad and Angelina have demonstrat­ed, the celebrity marriage will always be full of pitfalls, not to mention Pittfalls.

To be continued...

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