When Molly from Sherlock met Miriam

In the bar on the Monday of the Glasgow Conference hotel last October, a smiling party press officer told me that Louise Brealey, Sherlock actor and writer, had been following Miriam Gonzalez Durantez around all day in order to write a profile for Red magazine. I’ve been looking out for it ever since and it’s now appeared. It’s a delight to read, so sit down with a cup of tea and a biscuit and enjoy it.

The two women seem to have developed quite a rapport during the day, and that comes across in the article.

I met Louise at a Sherlock Convention (I could pretend I was there because of the Teenager, but I did get more involved than I anticipated because Louise and Benedict Cumberbatch were on the guest list) last February and was very impressed by the fact that she insisted on staying until every single fan who wanted one had her autograph. She spent time talking to each person and didn’t even take a proper meal break.  Having seen her in action, I can imagine her and Miriam getting on very well.

She picked up that the atmosphere of Conference was not quite the gloomy and doom affair the press made it out to be:

The newspapers have decided the Liberal Democrat conference is a bleak affair, but this morning the lobby of Glasgow’s Crowne Plaza thrums with cheerful party members necking coffee, shouting shop and forking sausages. ‘Are you thinking beyond May?’ a councillor from Wells asks a co-forker over his congealed fried eggs. The latter’s reply is inaudible.

This was the first time that Nick and Miriam had been interviewed together, too. Louise was sitting in the very seat I sat in when I went to a meeting with Clegg in that very room so I found her description of its corporate opulence quite amusing.  She, like many others who have met him, found Clegg “nice, friendly, bright, normal.” It’s just a pity we can’t get him on a one to one with 60 million people by May.

She got them talking about their relationship:

What keeps them together? ‘I think the secret is laughing a lot and having big arguments. If you can get over that before you go to bed, that’s fine,’ says González Durántez.

I ask if it’s true that Clegg fell in love the first time he saw her, when they were students in Bruges. To, I think, even his surprise, Clegg tears up. ‘It was total thunderbolt stuff, it really was.’ (González Durántez: ‘Oh no, this is going to get embarrassing.’)

Do you remember what she was wearing, I prompt. ‘Yes. This dark green velvet thing. And you had what I thought were these quite funny sort of brogue-y shoes on.’ (GD: ‘I was on trend already.’) He continues, ‘And I was this pimply Brit, trying to impress her…’

The Cleggs’ language of love was pidgin French, because he didn’t yet speak Spanish and, he explains, ‘How can I put this politely… Miriam’s English was not very… strong at this point.’ (GD: ‘It was terrible.’)

I can back that up because I know that Miriam’s English is so much better than it was when I first met her in the late 90s. We got by with a combination of my primary school Spanish and a bit of French. She was visiting the East Midlands for the first time and Nick was really keen that she should be impressed so I got a group of the nicest people I knew together and we all went for a curry in Chesterfield.

Later the women discuss feminism. What does it mean for Miriam?

‘I believe that every single woman can choose what they do with their lives – as men do – and not have to give explanations to society about what they have chosen. That’s that.’

For Miriam it’s actions rather than words that matter when it comes to achieving this goal:

One of those actions is Inspiring Women, González Durántez’s campaign to connect teenage girls with older female role models. Her aim is to see 15,000 women from all walks of life talking to 250,000 girls about their careers and educational choices by March 2015.

‘I feel terribly indebted to the previous generation of women in my country,’ she explains. ‘They couldn’t have a current account, couldn’t travel without the permission of their husbands. It was my mother’s generation that jumped forwards. Things that I take for granted in my life didn’t happen by chance; they happened because many people made an effort.’

Her grandad impressed upon her the importance of economic independence. I liked Louise’s slightly acerbic observation about how the tabloids view this:

She vastly out-earns her husband, a fact that is apparently so noteworthy it crops up in every red-top mention of ‘Miriam Clegg’.

I loved the parting shot. Do Lib Dem spin doctors give lines to Miriam?

I ask if she’s ever told by Clegg’s team what to say to the press. I laugh as I ask her, because having spent 12 hours in her company, I think I know what’s coming.

‘I do what I want,’ she says with a wry smile. Then, more serious: ‘I think people see through when you are trying to project an image. It’s not so complicated: I am aware of the fact that I am not elected; that’s the boundary. If I wanted to do politics, or interfere in politics, I should be elected. It’s as simple as that.’

Part of the reason I liked this interview so much is that I felt it was very authentic. She wrote about these people, about Conference in a way that I can recognise them.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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