After helping make the Clintons into a Democratic super-brand she wanted her turn at power

A woman who has been cheated on has a complex social role to play she must be devastated, dignified and instantly unforgiving (banishing the sexual miscreant), as though shes been given Gloria Gaynors I Will Survive to act out in some ghastly, very public round of emotional charades. No one knows this more than Hillary Clinton, who, in some eyes, committed a heinous feminist faux pas by forgiving her husband, Bill, for his multiple infidelities.

Instead of the Go on now, go walk out the door! narrative that is practically the cheatee-national anthem, Hillary stood by her man, even as she denied becoming a Tammy Wynette caricature. She has been relentlessly questioned, mocked and distrusted on account of this decision, arguably suffering more for her husbands betrayals than he ever did. Now, interviewed with her daughter, Chelsea, about their new The Book of Gutsy Women, she cited the decision to stay in my marriage as the gutsiest personal thing she ever did. Just the gutsiest, Hillary or also the smartest, the only outcome that made any kind of sense?

Over the years, there has been a lot of musing on the scorching humiliation that Hillary must have felt, the strength she needed to stay. All of which sounds true. Then theres why she stayed: love, respect, their daughter, their shared history all great reasons. However, in common with her many detractors, I always thought that she also stayed (big time!) for her career because, why would that be such a bad thing?

Hillary wouldnt just have been leaving Bill, shed have been leaving a political super-brand, a brand that shed worked tirelessly to build, that was supposed to turn into a dynasty, culminating in her becoming the first female president of the US. If youre going to suck up global degradation, then it might as well be for that, right? However much Bill put it about, she wasnt going to allow it to wreck what theyd built together. Certainly not at the point when hed had his turn, but her turn was still to come. This was the plan, anyway.

If all this sounds cold and clinical, what of it? As with many relationships, it was complicated. Hillarys critics tend to point to this as evidence of a sinister business arrangement between the Clintons, when in truth it was only what theyd presented as all along a marriage of equals on every level. Detractors also point to it as proof of everything thats wrong with robotic, over-ambitious Hillary. Personally, it made me like and trust this strong, cool-headed, preternaturally rational woman even more. Hillary never made any bones about being a high-functioning political alpha and there she was staying true to type. Hard as it must have been, as much as it ripped her heart out, her decision to stay was partly a focused career move. Staying with her cheating husband wasnt Hillary Clintons tragedy though not getting the result she wanted might be ours.

Please dont let Meghans strong spirit be extinguished

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex: fighting back. Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

Meghan Markle is a beautiful, accomplished woman, very much in love with her husband and their baby. So why do I often feel so sorry for her? Perhaps its because shes in an abusive relationship with the UK.

Hacking allegations aside, press freedom has rarely felt so crucial. However, whatever you think of the Sussexes media complaints, Markles treatment has been generally atrocious. She has been slammed as everything from an outsider to a hypocrite to a gold-digger. All that corrosive ugliness about her racial heritage (lets not pretend that isnt happening). She even gets stick for being American, as though shes some woke-reincarnated Wallis Simpson putting the crown in peril.

Markle has made some mistakes, mainly in thinking that US-style celebrity could translate easily to British royalty. But, really, big deal. Shes not even the first royal to make that mistake look at Prince Andrew, who has spent his entire aimless life swanning around (and worse?) by royal appointment.

If Markle initially overplayed her hand at being our first Insta-ready royal, then some in the UK made the mistake of routinely debasing her as if she were some trashy reality TV celebrity. No judgment here (I love trashy reality TV celebrities), but theyd be the first to acknowledge that their business model can be heavily reliant on negative attention. At least they get to fight back, unlike Markle. Until now.

No wonder Harry feels the urge to protect her, like he couldnt his own mother. I imagine this isnt even about them that the key is their son and the atmosphere they want him to grow up in.

As for Markle, she arrived with a bounce but these days, even when shes smiling, theres anxiety in her eyes. Like a giant candlesnuffer has clanked down and a flame has gone out.

Leadsoms coat of many colours? It must be panto season

Andrea Leadsom: pantomime dame? Photograph: Mark Thomas/REX/Shutterstock

I have a rule about not commenting on female MPs clothes. Male MPs all seem to wear the exact same cheap, depressing suit and no one ever comments. Yet female politicians endure relentless scrutiny for their sartorial choices, with every skirt, shoe and handbag criticised and analysed.

The practice is reductive, patronising and sorry, but Im going to have to make an exception. What was Andrea Leadsom wearing on a recent visit to No 10 or was it wearing her? Her outfit was impossible to ignore and in a way thats beyond gender. She sported a Burberry coat of many colours that admittedly may one day come in useful for an am-dram production of Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, teamed with a short skirt, sheer tights and knee boots.

Full disclosure: I once dressed similarly to go to a festival, but at least I had the excuse that it was at the peak of acid house. To employ the vernacular of the era, dare I inquire if Leadsom is on one? As I say, I would not stoop to analysing her clothes wear what you like, girl! Lets just hope for her sake that this obvious bid to be considered for roles in the forthcoming panto season will be heeded.

Barbara Ellen is an Observer columnist



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