There is nothing worse than being sat next to a dull conversationalist at a dinner party, particularly when you’re at a table of Wesminster VIPs.
Fortunately Tatler has shared its pick of the politicians’ wives who make the best guests, just in case you ever have the opportunity to have one round for supper.
The women are formidable in their own right, with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab’s wife Erika Rey-Raab, a formal Google high-flyer, and artist Nicola Green, the artist wife of Labour MP David Lammy, both making the cut.
Some, like Serbian-born opera singer Nevena Bridgen, who made a splash with her Wives of Westminster blog, are not afraid to step out into the spotlight. Others, like Sir Keir Starmer’s wife Victoria, prefer to keep a low profile.
Here, a closer look at some of the Westminster WAGs who are sure to shine at your next soiree.
Wife of: Tory MP Andrew Bridgen
Plenty of ‘zip and zing’: Nevena Bridgen, wife of Andrew, is sure to make her mark on any social gathering. The Serbian-born opera singer made a splash with her Wives of Westminster blog
Navena’s blog provides mix of political musings, property porn and a luxurious ‘aspirational’ shopping column showcasing designer items worth thousands of pounds
Serbian-born Nevena, who wed Andrew in 2017 after they met through friends, is the daughter of a retired jazz musician father and a psychologist mother.
She grew up under a largely communist regime, singing in bomb shelters during the Yugoslav Wars, before moving to London from Belgrade to study at the Guildhall School of Music. She is now a Lead Soloist of the National Theatre in Belgrade.
As well as her singing career she runs the Wives of Westminster website, a glamorous lifestyle hub aimed at the spouses of elected officials – provided they’re ‘fashionable, sophisticated women with brains, hearts and style’.
It provides a mix of political musings, property porn and a luxurious ‘aspirational’ shopping column showcasing designer items worth thousands of pounds.
It’s also littered with beguiling photos of Nevena at a string of high profile events; posing with her husband at one of the Queen’s Buckingham Palace garden parties, pouting outside Chequers, grinning beside Theresa May at 10 Downing Street and preparing for a photoshoot in a stylish hotel.
The blog has been lambasted by a number of politicans but Nevena has staunchly defended her site, claiming she sees it as challenging stereotypes and her attempt to step ‘out of the shadow of the role that is given to you when you’re a political spouse’.
The blog continues to offer advice to fellow ‘modern political spouses’, pointing out that nothing in their life is private if their other half is running or holding public office. Interviewees include Felicity Cornelius-Mercer, who is also on Tatler’s list.
Mr Bridgen separated from his first wife, Jackie, with whom he has two children, in 2011 and they later divorced. He and Nevena married in 2017 and have a child together.
Tatler notes Mrs Bridgen has plenty of ‘zip and zing’ and is sure to make her mark on any social gathering.
She also has a penchant for designer clothes, so ‘ask her about her love of Saint Laurent handbags and Prada boots’, the magazine suggests.
Wife of: Chancellor Rishi Sunak
Mrs Dishy Rishi! Chancellor Rishi Sunak is married to Akshata Murthy, whose father N.R. Narayana Murthy is India’s sixth-wealthiest man. Pictured, the couple together
Happy family: The couple, pictured with their daughters, met at Stanford University, in California, and married in her home city of Bangalore in 2009 in a two-day ceremony
Business savvy: Akshata herself runs fashion label Akshata Designs and is also a director of a venture capital firm founded by her father in 2010. Pictured, with her husband and children
Coveted: The Sunaks reportedly host ‘fabulous dinner parties’ at their Georgian manor in the Yorkshire Dales (pictured) – and if you you might just get an invitation in return
Chancellor ‘Dishy’ Rishi Sunak has been repeatedly tipped as a ‘prime minister-in-waiting’ since entering the House of Commons five years ago, but Tatler promises it is his wife, Akshata Murthy, who ‘really dazzles’.
Akshata, who runs her own clothing label Akshata Designs, is the daughter of India’s sixth-wealthiest man, N.R. Narayana Murthy, making the Sunaks household names in India.
Her father made his £2billion fortune through his ownership of multinational business technology giant Infosys, which is today valued at around £33.3billion.
Despite the family’s extraordinary wealth, Akshata had a notably ‘low key’ style, according to Indian press, and did not splash the cash as one might expect.
She met Rishi at Stanford University in California, where he had travelled on a Fulbright scholarship after graduating in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford.
The couple, who now have two daughters married in her home city of Bangalore in 2009 in a two-day ceremony attended by 1,000 guests. The nuptials made national news.
Akshata started her career in finance and marketing before switching directions and moving into fashion design. Speaking to Vogue India, she said she hoped her clothes, which draw on traditional Indian fabrics and crafting techniques, serve as a ‘passport to other cultures’.
The businesswoman is also a director of a venture capital firm founded by her father in 2010. Her shareholding in Infosys alone is estimated at £185million.
This, combined with Mr Sunak’s own multi-million pound fortune earned through his investment career, has led the couple to be dubbed the ‘Maharaja and Maharani of the Dales’.
Tatler noted Mrs Sunak is even more dazzling than Dishy Rishi, who has become something of a lockdown heartthrob. But the big benefit of inviting the Sunaks is that you might soon get your own invitation in return.
‘Akshata and Rishi are known to host fabulous dinner parties at their Georgian manor in the Yorkshire Dales,’ the article note.
Wife of: Labour MP David Lammy
A-list fans: Nicola, wife of David Lammy and described by Tatler as a ‘feisty conversationalist’, is a talented portrait artist whose subjects range from Elle Macpherson to the Dali Lamma
Night on the town: Nicola Green and David Lammy attend a West End premiere in 2014
With high profile collaborations with the likes of Barack Obama, the Dalai Lama and Pope Francis under her belt, it is of little surprise artist Nicola Green, wife of Tottenham Labour MP David Lammy, appears on Tatler’s list of women you might want to have round your dinner table.
Nicola, daughter of the founder of the British Lung Foundation, Professor Sir Malcolm Green, graduated from Edinburgh College of Art in 1998 with an MFA and has gone on to build a career as an internationally renowned portrait artist.
In 2008 she was given unprecedented access to presidential candidate Barack Obama on the campaign trail and produced a series of silk-screen prints, In Seven Days, which were donated to the Library of Congress.
Green’s work is also in the private collections of celebrities including Nigella Lawson, Elle Macpherson, Richard Curtis, Emma Freud, Norman Cook, Angus Deayton, The Hons Nicholas and Charlotte Lloyd Webber, and Sir Alex Ferguson.
Although both Ms Green and Mr Lammy like to keep details of their private life under wraps, it is thought the couple met in the early 2000s at a singles party organised by former Bethnal Green and Bow MP Oona King.
The couple, both supporters of Tottenham Hotspur, live in London with their three children.
Described as Tatler as a ‘fiery conversationalist’, Nicola would certainly have plenty of stories to tell. Among the most fascinating would surely be of supermodel Elle Macpherson, with whom she has been friends for more than a decade.
Speaking in 2013, Elle told how she helped Green find the dress she wore to Obama’s inauguration.
‘One afternoon she [Nicola] was visiting for lunch when she suddenly said, “I have a dinner to go to and I don’t know what to wear!” So I asked, “What kind of dinner is it?” And it was for Obama’s inauguration, at the White House. So I said, “Right, come upstairs,” and we went through my wardrobe.
‘To be honest, I never thought we’d find something that would fit; I’m 6ft tall. But we found this royal-blue satin dress and she put it on and she looked so beautiful and elegant.’
Wife of: Tory MP Johnny Mercer
Bootcamp training: Felicity has been married to Tory MP Johnny Mercer, pictured, since his days in the Armed Forces, when she lived the ‘nomadic’ existence of an Army wife
Political ambitions: Mr and Mrs Mercer are based in a small village in Cornwall with their three children, but Felicity is rumoured to have her sights set on No. 10, according to Tatler
Felicity Cornelius-Mercer has been married to Tory MP Johnny since his days in the Armed Forces, when she lived the ‘nomadic’ existence of an Army wife.
The experience gave her some important training for a life as a Westminster plus-one.
‘Being a military wife is very similar in a lot of ways to being a politician’s wife,’ she said in an interview with Mrs Bidgen’s Wives of Westminster blog.
‘You are the auxillary team; supporting and helping wherever you can; building relationships with the community around you and having an active role in military or political life.’
However she noted there are some major differences between the two.
‘Johnny’s time in the military were some of our best years and some of our hardest years. These years have shaped us and our relationship to give us the strength to take on a political career as a team.
‘This is the polar opposite to taking on a political life, where it is divisive from the very beginning through the election process. The military was a safe, trusting, loving and supportive environment. Wider politics is anything but.’
Despite her reservations about the skulduggery of Westminster, Mrs Mercer seems keen to stay.
‘Felicity is rumoured to have her sights fixed firmly on the door to No. 10 and says she’s a 100 per cent “in” political spouse,’ Tatler notes.
The couple, who have three children, are based in a small village in Cornwall.
Wife of: Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab
High-flyer: Brazilian-born Erika Rey brings ‘much-needed glamour to the drab halls of Westminster’, notes Tatler and embraces the job of an MP’s wife ‘with enthusiasm’.
Biggest supporter: Erika cheers as he makes his acceptance speech in December last year
Brazilian-born Erika Rey brings ‘much-needed glamour to the drab halls of Westminster’, notes Tatler and embraces the job of an MP’s wife ‘with enthusiasm’.
She and Dominic met in 2002 at a party with friends. ‘It was an instant attraction,’ she said in a previous interview. ‘My best friend married his best friend as well, which is really nice.’
However Dominic put a foot wrong while trying to make small talk with Erika, then a marketing student.
She recalled in a 2019 interview with The Times: ‘He actually made a big mistake. It was a week after Brazil had knocked England out of the World Cup and he asked if I was from Argentina. If you are from Brazil, that is bad.’
The couple managed to recover from the early faux pas and maintained a long-distance relationship while Erika moved to Madrid for a year. The couple flew back and forth between Spain and London to visit each other.
Dominic proposed on Christmas Eve in 2004.
Erika climbed the ranks professionally, eventually landing a role as a marketing executive at Google. She gave up her role earlier this year, shortly before her husband became de-facto Prime Minister when Boris Johnson was rushed into intensive care.
Erika and Dominic spend most of their time at home in Thames Ditton, Surrey, with their sons, Peter and Joshua. However the couple also enjoy the use of the Chevening, their grace-and-favour country pile in Kent.
Play your cards right and you just might be invited over for dinner in return.
Wife of: Jo Johnson
Differing views: Guardian journalist and Labour party member Amelia Gentleman is married to Jo Johnson, former universities minister, Tory MP and – most notably – the younger brother of Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Pictured, the couple in September 2014
Journalist and Labour party member Amelia Gentleman is married to Jo Johnson, former universities minister, Tory MP and – most notably – the younger brother of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Although Jo stood down from his Orpington seat last year, Amelia remains a ‘notable political consort’, notes Tatler, thanks to her husband’s newly elevated position in the House of Lords.
However Amelia, an ardent Remainer and award-winning writer for the Guardian, has decidedly different political leanings to her brother-in-law.
Indeed the chasm between them is said to have grown to the point where she gave her husband an ultimatum before her resigned last year.
She is said to have told her husband: ‘It is me or Boris’, before he stepped down over an ‘unresolvable tension’ between family loyalty and family interest.
Amelia is a close friend of Marina Wheeler, the Prime Minister’s ex-wife, and is thought to have been on her side during divorce proceedings.
A source told The Sun at the time: ‘She hated to see her beloved sister-in-law being put through the mill by Boris.
‘While Marina was recovering from two operations for cervical cancer, Boris was off gallivanting with Carrie Symonds.
‘It didn’t sit well with her and she gave Jo a very hard time over it.’
Jo and Amelia, a Labour Party member and the daughter of artist David Gentleman, have two children together.
She is a reporter at The Guardian where she spent six months reporting on the Windrush scandal, which broke in April 2018 and within weeks led to resignation of Amber Rudd as Home Secretary.
Her writing focuses mainly on how government policy ‘impacts people beyond Westminster’.
Wife of: Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer
Low key: Victoria made a rare public appearance two weeks ago at a service to mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain at Westminster Abbey, London, pictured
Out of the spotlight: Sir Keir and Victoria prefer to keep details of their private lives to themselves. Pictured, the couple clapping for carers outside their home
Proud parents: Victoria and Keir, who were photographed ‘clapping for carers’ during lockdown, share a son and daughter, who are also kept out of the public eye
Labour grandees: Christian Percy, Tulip Saddiq, Keir and Victoria Starmer
As wife of the leader of the Opposition, Victoria holds serious power when it comes to the Westminster social scene but would rather stay out of the spotlight.
‘She is ambitious but never arrogant, clever without being condescending and an excellent cook,’ friends told Tatler.
It is of little wonder then that invitations to Friday night Shabbat dinner at the Starmer’s £1.75million Camden home are ‘highly prized’.
See the full feature in the November issue of Tatler, available via digital download and newsstands now
However you would do well to break into the inner circle, for Sir Keir and Victoria prefer to keep details of their private lives to themselves.
The low-key couple met while they were both working as lawyers in the early 2000s, although exactly how they were introduced is not known.
Victoria worked as a solicitor before retraining as an occupational therapist. She now works for the NHS.
Victoria and Keir, who were photographed ‘clapping for carers’ during lockdown, share a son and daughter, who are also kept out of the public eye.
Victoria made a rare public appearance two weeks ago at a service to mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain at Westminster Abbey, London.
The family suffered a devastating blow in February when Victoria’s mother died following an accident. Sir Keir, then a contender for leader of the Labour party, took time off engagements to be with his wife and children.
See the full feature in the November issue of Tatler, available via digital download and newsstands now