Andy McSmith's Diary: Is that George Osborne I hear? Or Barry White?


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Indy Politics

Something seems to have happened to George Osborne’s voice. He did not sound like the Chancellor we have come to know and love during a live appearance on the Today programme. The squeak was not there. Perhaps it was a trick of the acoustics, maybe he has a cold, or maybe, just maybe, he has been practising to lower his pitch and sound more authoritative. Today, answering questions in the Commons, he sounded more like his usual self, but that could be only a temporary reversion.

The Chancellor has surprised us before. The most startling change was when he turned up to the 2013 annual Conservative conference with a radical new haircut. His biographer, Janan Ganesh, later revealed that Thea Rogers, a former BBC producer hired to improve the Chancellor’s image, had steered him in the direction of a smart London salon, without warning him how much they charged. Osborne also subjected himself to the 5:2 diet, which obliged him to fast two days a week, and began a fitness regime to reduce his weight.

If he is now training his voice as the next stage in image improvement then it is obvious to any conspiracy theorist what this means... he is after David Cameron’s job.

Making a bad impression

We wouldn’t be listening to George Osborne at all, if Rory Bremner had his way. Writing in the Radio Times, he bemoaned the way that each change in the Cabinet takes out one more character with distinctive mannerisms that an impressionist can latch on to, such as William Hague or Ken Clarke, replacing them with “managerial bureaucrats who make speak-your-weight machines sound like Martin Luther King”.

He names Philip Hammond – “whose colourful life has included the establishment of an electrode manufacturing plant in Maidenhead, and a spell as consultant to the government of Malawi”... [and] George Osborne and Jeremy Hunt, whose style of delivery is “contra-indicated for anyone with even the mildest form of narcolepsy”. If there is a Conservative leadership election, Bremner and co-professionals will be praying for a Boris Johnson victory.

Soap box to soap powder

Lord Ashdown, owner of one of the most authoritative voices in modern politics, has run into some criticism for signing up to a voiceover company. Soho Voices sees commercial potential in his vowels and consonants, but some of his fellow Liberal Democrats say that, with the general election less than 100 days away, he should be focusing on his role as the party’s campaign manager.

He says that being signed up does not mean he has to accept every or any assignment the company pushes in his direction. “I’m not going to do advertisements, because it’s just not my style,” he told BBC2’s Daily Politics. “I’m certainly not about to try and sell soap powder with my voice. I would think I’d make soap powder sales crash.”

Sked’s missile

Alan Sked, who founded Ukip, does not think there is much else Nigel Farage can do with himself if he carries out his stated intention to quit the party leadership before 2020, other than hang around Brussels living off an MEP’s salary and expenses. “He has no shame and no ability to do anything else,” he told the Huffington Post. “He couldn’t go into the City – he was only an unsuccessful commodity broker.”

If you think that is unkind, you should see what Dr Sked said about Ukip’s second most prominent member, Douglas Carswell – “he lacks backbone… and has the charisma of a wet turd”. So elegantly put.