Then, on Wednesday, Tony Blair was the keynote speaker at a She magazine conference on "What Women Want", where he offered a new deal for working mothers to ease the strain of juggling professional and personal commitments. Free childcare! Re-skilling! Flexible benefits! Said one woman attending the event: "I wouldn't have voted for John Smith but Mr Blair is young, attractive and knows how to brush his hair." He wore a dark suit.
What will Labour's next move be in its campaign to win the hearts and minds of Britain's female population? This is no frivolous question, since the "women's vote" was crucial in clinching the last American presidential election for the virile young duo who became known as Bill Clitoris and Al Gorgeous.
Personal charm is obviously an essential element in the campaign and I can see the Labour leader as Tony Wooarr. But his deputy as John Presskiss? John Presscuddle? Tricky.
Why not, then, have them take on a guest editorship at a women's magazine during August - always a quiet month in politics, and dead in terms of glossy advertising, when gimmicks are an essential means of boosting readership. In December 1993, Nelson Mandela took on French Vogue; the following year Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders helmed Marie Claire. If they play their cards right, 1995 could be the year the shadow cabinet (and friends) brings out Cosmopolitan: tough on sexism, tough on the causes of sexism.
What a fresh approach they could bring to this month's issue! First, the editor's letter: all Cosmo editors have a minimum of three names - Helen Gurley Brown, Marcelle d'Argy Smith - so it has to be signed Tony Charles Lynton Blair. Then the features. "Heart disease and you: think it only happens to fat, middle-aged men?" John Prescott introduces a surprising new report. "Altered images: want to change the way you think you look? We show you how." By our pioneering style director, Robin Cook. "Just the job for you: how to choose the career that suits you best." A personal testimony by Neil Kinnock.
What else? The agony column, of course: "A few weeks ago, my best friend persuaded me into having a lesbian encounter. The experience, new to us both, was thrilling. My husband has never managed to give me an orgasm; she did." But are you ideologically compatible, asks Dennis Skinner. "The grasshopper syndrome: the bugging habits of people too flighty to commit to anything." By, um, Tony Blair. And fashion: "Let your body do the talking in shrink-to-fit clothes so hot, they're steaming." By ... er
Sorry darlings, but this just isn't working, OK? "New" Labour still isn't woman-friendly. Why else have there been no Labour sex scandals in the past 12 months? The answer is nothing to do with moral righteousness and everything to do with red beards.
The Tory party, by contrast, has an embarrassment of riches in the "fwooaar" department. Health and beauty supremo? Impossible to choose between the two Michaels: golden-haired Heseltine, lord of the jungle, and el Portillo, silky Latin lover-boy. Jeffrey Archer? Tall, dark and handsome. Alan Clark? Straight out of Mills & Boon.
Even the ones that aren't going to make it to the cover of GQ (anyone for David Mellor?) seem to exude a powerful sexual charisma which cannot simply be written off as the patina of wealth and power. The blue-rinsed shires will always swoon for love-gods such as these, come boom or bust. Feel good factor? Not half.
SEX WARS PART 2: This week, a 34-year-old woman who admitted stabbing her former lover in the stomach walked free from court on the grounds that she was in an "automotive" state when the incident took place. Her actions, it seems, were no longer controlled by her conscious mind and all memories of them were erased. (Her lover was left with 30 stitches.) The trigger for this rare condition, argued the defence, was rape and not, as the prosecution alleged, the quantity of red wine and whisky she had just consumed.
Good news that juries are at last treating seriously the horrible crime of rape, but I'd have preferred the same verdict without the psycho-babble. First, why isn't stabbing one's attacker deemed a legitimate response to rape?
Second, such cases pathologise women as helpless, hysterical victims of their confused little minds and surging hormones, rather than rational beings capable of a full range of human responses: anger, the right to self-defense, the desire for revenge, or whatever.
Mind you, automotivity has its uses. I honestly have no memory of finishing an entire packet of chocolate biscuits last night. Is it really true that I haven't done the washing up for months - a memory lapse perhaps caused by Christmas. And, honestly, I didn't spend £175 on a suit at the weekend. I was in a chocolate-induced trance.Reuse content