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