Monday, 15 March 2010

No, Prime Minister

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

The Prime Minister did a very odd thing today. He went on Woman's Hour, and talked in a very, very quiet voice. I know that does not sound particularly strange; I wish I could render in words the full peculiarity of it. Gordon Brown is not famous for being soft-spoken; that has never been his thing. He has been notorious for years in the Westminster Village for having a volcanic temper, so much so that Tony Blair was quite frightened of him. 'Give me a clue, Gordon,' Blair reportedly begged, when Brown refused to give the then Prime Minister a sniff of the forthcoming budget. Now Andrew Rawnsley's book has come out, and we know more than perhaps we wanted about pushing and poking and shouting and flying telephones and calling aides unrepeatable names.

So to go onto a programme aimed specifically at women, and suddenly affect a voice so quiet that at times I had to strain to hear it, just made Brown appear like the phoniest of the phonies. I could hardly concentrate on his policy prescriptions, because all I could imagine was him sitting down with some pollster, who had the focus group numbers and the breakdown of the key marginals and other psephological ephemera, and being told that the most crucial thing was to speak softly. 'You see, Gordon,' some wonk must have said, 'it seems that the females don't like stories about you yelling at hapless secretaries, but if you do the thing with the voice, then all will be forgiven.' And never forget, we ladies get startled by loud noises.

I have tried to give Gordon Brown the benefit of the doubt. I used to believe in him. I still retain an unfashionable belief in the political process and the political class. But the quiet voice finished me off. It was not only fake, it was not only style over substance, but it felt as if he was patronising half the population. On top of that, he still refused to apologise for the troops not having the right equipment in Afghanistan. Generals, army families, troops on the ground, coroners and civil servants have all stated clearly that lack of the right kit, from desert boots to proper armoured vehicles to helicopters, was an acute problem. On Woman's Hour today, the Prime Minister trotted out his tired, rehearsed line about meeting every military request. It doesn't matter how many voice coaches you get, if you refuse to take responsibility for your actions, and treat people like fools, and lack the courage to admit to mistakes, then you will never get the women's vote. You do not deserve to get any damn votes.

Oh dear, I suspect that this election season is going to make me very, very cross indeed. I am going to take a deep breath and eat some soda bread and try and calm down. Otherwise, I am very much afraid I am going to end up looking like this:

Don't mess with the ladies

Thank God it is the start of Cheltenham tomorrow, so I can think about the soaring magnificence of this:

Kauto Star

And since the runners and riders are saddling up for the election, and it will be statistics a go-go for the next six weeks, here is my favourite stat of the day:

In a survey done by Ladbrokes, 98% of its customers had heard of Kauto Star, while only 25% had heard of Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats. I know that should really make me despair, but for some reason it makes me laugh.


  1. Oh Tania, I need to know more people like you in real life.

    Politics AND racing? Two of my very favourite topics. Bah for being stuck in work all week and having to listen to Cheltenham on the radio though!

  2. I've rather started to lose interest in all the gimmicks and personality showboating from all parties for this election - we know there will be cuts (and - Ed Balls - they're not 'spending reductions', they are cuts) and less money and a few hard years, but what I suspect the majority of women would like to know is not whether Gordon knows how much a pint costs or what his favourite brekkie is, but whether there might be support and help for carers, whether the decision to send their sons and daughters to Afghanistan might be repealed, whether their children might come out of school with - shhh - any sign of literacy... The list goes on.
    But at least the sun has started shining and there are actual croci and one can eat smoked salmon and ricotta on toast with a schmear of horseradish and feel as if there may be hope...

  3. I only just caught up with the podcast- I agree the whispering for our delicate constitutions was odd- perhaps he didn't want to sound like a bully?

    The thing with Brown is he should have known his chance was gone or accepted that he was never the type to lead and not taken over. His ego couldn't help it and now he finds himself arguing for the failings of 13 years which aren't all his fault.

    The real problem with our politics is it seems to strip people with good intentions who are bright- possible like Brown, possible not- and reduce them to petty fighting children who just like spouting waffle and statistics and not doing anything.

    It goes against all my instincts as a democrat and a woman but if no one in this country voted then none of the coasting MPs and candidates I see before me would have a mandate and we could have a national government or a real clear out and try and start working on really making things better- not throwing hard worked for money into things and seemingly wasting it.

    I mean Brown going on about how much they have spent on health and education- great and things are still worse- so you spent more and made it worse (for it is worse, anyone who has been near a school or to the NHS for a non emergency- for I do admit in a crisis the service is wonderful- knows this)- and you feel I should elect you again- good stuff.

  4. It isn't only what they say but how they are campaigning. It is so often behind a screen or in a studio (radio is best because they can munch biscuits). On Woman’s Hour the PM spoke about child benefit going on line and that made me want to start my Mumsnet ranting all over again. Not everyone has internet access and sadly, it is rumoured that some of those who claimed the low income government grant to buy a laptop, have since flogged it on and pocketed the cash. If my kids needed new shoes, I might be tempted.


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