Belfast Telegraph

For crying out loud, it’s time for politicans to turn off the tears

By Lindy McDowell

Are we too buttoned up for our own good in Northern Ireland? Would it improve the political climate if our leaders and public figures chuckled less and emoted more?

Would it improve their political chances...?

These questions arise at a time when the airwaves seem to be constantly sodden with the emotion of interviewees. Not just the likes of celeb Peter Andre becoming wobbly lipped when grilled about his custody hopes for his children.

But now even that man of steel and spin, Alastair Campbell.

Alastair had a bit of a moment recently on the Andrew Marr Show when he was quizzed about whether he thought Tony Blair had misled Parliament over WMD in the run-up to the Iraq War.

OK, so it's not quite on a par with being asked if you think your girlfriend's having it off with the milkman.

But Alastair suddenly came over all dewy eyed and choked up.

Later — on another television interview show — he explained that he'd become emotional at the thought that people might think he couldn't be.

Emotional, that is...

“I feel sometimes we are treated in this media bubble... like somehow you are devoid of humanity — you don't really have feelings, you don't really care about things.”


The problem with spin merchants like Alastair isn't so much that we think they're devoid of humanity as that we suspect they may be devoid of sincerity.

It occurs, for example, that it may have occurred to the infamous hardman of New Labour that a bit of celeb-style blubber might also be a vote-catcher.

A man who stands accused of sexing up a dodgy dossier is presumably not beyond Kleenexing up any stray votes out there.

He would not, of course, be alone.

In our emotionally incontinent times, you occasionally get the feeling that the weepers shall inherit the earth.

And even Northern Ireland has not been entirely immune.

We've had Peter Robinson, former cold fish of local politics, struggling to keep composure in television interviews where he disclosed details of his wife's infidelity. And in the process winning unexpected sympathy.

But once you have the likes of Campbell displaying lip tremble, you begin to wonder if the spin think tanks have decided that the new rule in politics is — if you want to get ahead, get a hankie.

Next up, we're warned, is Gordon Brown getting emotional on Sunday's Piers Morgan television show where he is filmed weeping about the loss of his baby daughter.

Now, it goes without saying that only a heart of stone would fail to be moved at such a point.

You just wonder if it is not a bit odd that the Prime Minister of the country allows himself to be manoeuvred into such a moment of soul-baring.

There are many others on the national political scene (not least the leader of the Opposition) who have similar raw emotional experiences.

But do we really want to see and hear them unburdening themselves on prime-time TV?

Do we really want a political interview that is some sort of cross over between Jeremy Paxman and Jeremy Kyle?

Are we really well served by politicians going for the sympathy vote?

Belfast Telegraph


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