I have quite a number of criticisms I could make of Gordon Brown, but lack of courage in dealing with the fact that he is blind in one eye is not one of them. I have long admired Mr Brown's stoical determination to do his job and make no public fuss about it. With a member of my own family affected by partial sight, I have some appreciation of the true cost of that determination.
Most people have little idea how much of a problem loss of vision can create - from the obvious issues around personal safety through to failing to recognise someone or being assumed to be lacking in alertness because they have not spotted signs or information at a distance. It can be upsetting and painful to be with someone who has such a problem when you realise what they do suffer, and so often uncomplainingly.
This week's row over the letter Mr Brown wrote to a mother who has lost her solider son is a case in point. Her suffering is of course unimaginable, and she is entitled to remonstrate personally with her Prime Minister about what she sees as his inappropriate letter and the more fundamental issues over equipment for the armed forces. But, in truth, I have been glad to see the tide turn around the letter. It was sincerely written to try to bring her some comfort. If his writing is poor and some letters not properly formed (all faults I have, without the excuse of poor vision) I think that is secondary to the effort he made in writing to her. No-one other than the lady he wrote to needed to say anything about his handwriting. I dislike our national tendency to jump on people for imagined failings. Mr Brown may not be popular, and indeed we may think he is very unlikely to be Prime Minister for longer than another few months, but attacking him for his handwriting and failing to acknowledge the extraordinary way he deals with his own disability struck me this week as shallow.