How the role of a politician's spouse has morphed to become an integral part of a campaign

Source: 1News

The role of a politician's partner has been brought into the spotlight recently, after the husband of National leader Judith Collins criticised the Prime Minister on social media. 

David Wong-Tung last week shared two controversial memes about Jacinda Ardern on his personal Facebook account.

Historically, the role of a political leader's spouse was to quietly stand by their partner's side. 

But, University of Auckland Associate Professor Jennifer Lees-Marshment, an expert in political marketing, told TVNZ1’s Q+A that has since changed.

Ms Lees-Marshment said the spouse has now become part of the politicians' overall campaign brand - such as former National leader Simon Bridges' wife Natalie, and Jacinda Ardern's husband Clarke Gayford. 

“Increasingly, the partners of politicians have been brought into the campaign and they’ve been marketed as part of the product partly to try and show their partners as being relatable as being human beings, as being somebody who we might feel we can trust to run the country because they’re somebody who their partner trusts at home.”

Ms Lees-Marshment said the changes came about as the public became more interested in what politicians were like as people, instead of just focusing on their policies. 

Though, Ms Lees-Marshment said the use of partners can turn into a “huge burden” for politicians’ families. 

"If the partner of a politician becomes the story then that affects the politician’s brand as well,” she said.

Ms Lees-Marshment said it was important for spouses to support their partners’ “brand” as a politician for the strategy to be effective.

“You’ve got to make sure the partner is very quiet or compliments the position you’re trying to put forward.”

Watch the full story in the video above.