RACHEL JOHNSON: All I want is a faithful man... who can catch pilchards 

As I watched the beauty contest to elect Mr UK 2015, the real reason why Poldark has become the nation’s pin-up (well, mine anyway) suddenly struck me. In fact, my grass is a bit long out front, Ross, if you’re in the vicinity with your shirt off and that scythe... I’ve got the Johnson’s Baby Oil out to gloss your pecs...

Sorry. Where was I? Oh yes. We perve over Poldark because he’s a rare British beefcake, but that’s not the entire secret of his man-appeal, as we demand so much more than pointless good looks from our chaps.

Behind their backs, most women admit they find very few English men physically, irresistibly, attractive, in the sense that we want to tear their clothes off with our teeth.

British beefcake: Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark has become the nation's pin-up

British beefcake: Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark has become the nation's pin-up

It’s not that they’re not attractive, as such. It’s just vanishingly rare that we’re ever driven into an erotic frenzy by appearance alone, even by men who look like Chippendales, a male dance troupe with chiselled mahogany torsos clad only in cuffs, ties and jeans that they proceed to remove to a cacophony of shrill, chardonnay-fuelled cackles.

And men on one level must know this, which is why they bang on about how rich and important and successful they are (if only men knew what suckers we are for mere jobbing competence. Give me a man who’s good with his hands and can put up a shelf and I go weak at the knees). All this is far more important, especially come Election time, than it looks.

If you’re a politician hoping to pull lady voters, you have to emphasise an ensemble of qualities, so you’re not just a shiny face in a suit and a colour-coded tie. You have to show depth and constancy – and competence.

Like Ross Poldark. He came back for his sweetheart Elizabeth and found her engaged to his cousin, sorted out the mines, then rebounded firmly on to scraggle-haired Demelza, to whom he is now devotedly wed.

This makes him unlike the three other English romantic heroes who dominated last week’s news: John Lennon, who cheated on his late wife Cynthia; Charlie Chaplin, who got an underage girl preggers; and the tattooed shagger in that Channel 5 doc, an alcoholic on benefits who claims to have fathered 40 kids by 20 women at a cost of £4.5million to all of us.

In contrast, Ross Poldark toils down his own mine and is, so far, faithful, decent and honourable. He is prepared to talk about his feelings. He has even openly fallen in love with his own wife. No wonder we are so smitten. I know he’s fictional, but we don’t care. Ross P allays dark female fears that, as soon as a man’s got them where he wants them – barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen – he will move on, a ‘vacancy’ having been created for a mistress.

This is why – lightbulb moment – the party leaders are therefore Poldarking away like crazy, often in high-vis and hard hats. They know they can’t appeal on physical grounds or on the basis of their manifesto pledges alone, but have to persuade us they can bring in the shoal of pilchards and are a safe pair of trousers, too.

Take Dave, who says he’s broody and his best friend is ‘Sam’. Nick Clegg is a surrendered husband. Ed M says the hardest thing about the job is not seeing his family. ‘That’s what I worry about. I don’t want to be an absent dad. That’s a challenge in this job, and it’s a challenge if I’m Prime Minister.’

So, far from being abusive (like Lennon and Chaplin) or absent (the deadbeat dad) these leaders stress they are new men and their wives – all being wheeled out on the ‘she’s OK, I must be OK’ principle – rule the roost.

So this is the message from the men vying to be your Mr UK 2015. Our Pols know they have to be more than dark or handsome to get the girls. They want you to know that they’re not serial love rats, deadbeat dads, or your average toxic male.

If you do put your cross in their box (I leave you with the thought that nerdy Ed has just revealed he’s hopeless at DIY) they’ll still love you tomorrow. Maybe even more than they love you today.


Julie's my cool, clinical champion 

Julie Etchingham managed to channel cool Claire Underwood in House of Cards and beady Anne Robinson at the same time

Julie Etchingham managed to channel cool Claire Underwood in House of Cards and beady Anne Robinson at the same time

I’ll tell you who won #leadersdebate. The women. Julie Etchingham, in clinical white outfit, did a crisp turn as moderator, right – somehow managing to channel cool Claire Underwood in House Of Cards and beady Anne Robinson at the same time.

Leanne from the Valleys made us all want to break into song, and stirred my husband to comment: ‘I love the Welsh woman! I’m voting for her.’ The weakest link was Natalie Bennett of the Greens, even though, let’s face it, the environment is the biggest issue of the lot. But the star of the night was Nicola of the SNP. The ‘insturgeoncy’ – of women increasingly running things – has begun.



Sapphic love among the spirit levels 

I had no idea B&Q was a mecca for lesbians. I assumed it was the destination chain for fans of Fifty Shades and BDSM as, in the movie, Ana works in a hardware store and flogs (geddit) Christian Grey his stock items of duct tape, bulldog clips, plastic wrist-ties, etc. It may be too late to act on this information, though, as parent company Kingfisher has announced it’s closing 60 stores – to this lament from journalist Julie Bindel. ‘Many a Sapphic romance has developed in B&Q,’ she wrote. ‘Nothing signifies more clearly that the woman in a checked shirt looking at spirit levels on a Sunday morning neither has a man at home, nor indeed wants one.’ Fancy! 


 Fashion editors are calling sweatpants (according to one film star ‘the number one cause of divorce in the US’) a key trend this spring. Yay! I live in them: grey sloppy Monrows during daylight hours, silk in the evening. I accept that, like other favourite items – Uggs, jumpsuits, flip flops – they fall into the category of garments known as ‘man-repellers’. Which makes them all the more wearable. Nothing comes between me and my teenage son’s camo onesie, not even threats from my entire family that if I don’t take if off they will post pictures of me wearing it (to be honest, it wears me) on Instagram.


 I admit to a grudging respect for Lord Ashcroft, who has resigned with honour from the Upper House, declaring he’s too busy playing Lord Polldemort to contribute to debates. One can only pray that it’s a case of ‘apres lui, le deluge’.


 Finally M&S has turned the corner. Clothes and food sales are up. Alexa Chung is in the 1970s suede skirt, and whenever I see elegant Martha (Baroness) Lane Fox, I ask her where she got her top or her skirt, and she always says M&S. I knew the store was on the up when it started selling sachets of passion-fruit puree. This is the most tremendous development. I put it on everything, and it really perks up porridge.