'Squeaky' Osborne raises his game with a lower voice

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The Independent Online

For all the loose talk of a Tory revival, no one has yet managed to land a blow on Gordon Brown, least of all his opposite number George Osborne.

One of Osborne's main handicaps, say detractors, is that his vocal delivery is all wrong. Compared to the booming tones of the Iron Chancellor, his voice has been described as that of a schoolboy.

But following a marked lowering in Osborne's vocal delivery in recent days, senior parliamentary colleagues now insist their man, above, has been privately undergoing voice coaching in a bid to add some all-important gravitas to his performances at the dispatch box. "Having listened to Ozza giving interviews these past few days, you can't help but notice there's been a considerable change," one mischievous senior MP informs me.

"He's clearly taken the criticism to heart, and the word around the Shadow Cabinet is that he's been taking a few professional tips on how to keep the voice lower.

"It's a wise move on his part as people have remarked his voice does have a tendency to squeak, particularly when he gets involved in debate."

It's certainly nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, Osborne can count himself in good company as both Margaret Thatcher and Harold Wilson sought help to improve their performance, though so did Iain Duncan Smith with less success.

"If he has sought advice, it's news to me," insists a spokesman.

* Sean "Puffy" Combs appears to be suffering a downturn in fortune that not even another name change can save.

The American music mogul, right, who as of late has chosen to be referred to as "Diddy", was left out of the last of Forbes magazine's top 20 highest-earning musicians.

Such an exclusion is as good as a death warrant in the material obsessed world of hip-hop.

Now his clothing label, which he calls Sean by Sean Combs, has decided to withdraw its latest line of womenswear.

The spin coming out of the Diddy camp is that the label wants to redirect its efforts into producing another range of women's clothing with another company called G-111.

One fashionista informs Pandora otherwise. "Their last collection was just rubbish," I'm told.

* Political blogs are ten a penny these days: everyone seems to have one.

The latest to try their hand at writing an online diary is the minister for Local Government, David Miliband.

But for any political aficionado hoping to get an interesting insight into what's going on Miliband's much-heralded brain, prepare to be disappointed.

Pandora's advice: Give it a swerve. What's more, those who have given it a go don't seem too satisfied.

"I fail to see what you aim to achieve by this blog," grumbles one unhappy user.

"If it is to inform us, what's wrong with the PR department you already have?"

Looks like the crowd are getting ugly, Dave.

* I hope for everyone's sake that we're not about to see the last of the Irish pop band The Corrs.

In a music industry dominated by make-up-encrusted pop idol second-raters, surely no one could deny that the group's three divine sisters are the genuine article.

But when I ran into their lead singer Andrea, left, at a recent cocktail party, she told me the family sadly have no plans to record anything together for the foreseeable future.

"We're taking time off for the time being," she told me.

"To be honest, I think the rest of the family are all pretty busy as they're off having babies and raising families."

For those who can't bear being deprived of Andrea on our television screens, there will be some respite.

"I'm planning on concentrating on my acting at the moment," she added.

"There's a film I'm going to be working on which is in development, so I can't really say much about it yet."

* There were high jinx at the inaugural running of The Sporting Index Ferret Gold Cup in the city this week.

The event was delayed after those pesky spoilsports from the animal rights lobby turned up intent on putting a dampener on things.

"They were understandably concerned that some of the ferrets weren't being treated properly," says an event organiser. "We let them know that they weren't going to have to jump any obstacles or any such like, and that all the betting profits from the evening were going to Ferret Shelter, a charity that looks at rehousing ferrets. They left us alone after that."

In case you were wondering, the proud recipient of the trophy was the favourite Lehman Lightning which romped home at 7/4.

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