The thing is that you can tell me we live in a touchy-feely post-Diana world, and I will mostly believe you, but that still doesn’t mean I want to see a crying politician. I don’t even want to hear about one. And I certainly wouldn’t vote for someone who proudly proclaimed their propensity to dampness, unless the only other option was someone even weepier.
But the focus groups must be missing me out, because politicians of every shade are queuing up to tell us how sensitive and lachrymose they are. First there was Nick Clegg, confessing that he cried while listening to music as though this were remotely worth saying. Everyone cries while listening to music: its function is to evoke profound emotions, even if it is the new Jedward single. That too can provoke tears: for the future of humanity, if nothing else.
And now Ed Balls has confessed that he cries while watching Antiques Roadshow. I think that must be one of the most disturbing sentences I’ve ever typed. Is it the infernally perky theme tune that gets him going? Or the twined A and R logo, like the wedding invitation of two people you’ve never particularly liked and now need to fabricate a prior engagement to avoid?
No, it is the bit at the end when someone comes in with some knackered old watercolour they’ve found under the sink where normal people keep the emergency brandy, and it turns out to be worth ten grand. That’s the bit that moves Ed Balls to tears: ‘And they say, “I'm amazed it's worth that much, but it means more to me than money.” Incredibly emotional.’
Never mind that all right-minded people are bellowing at the television that it clearly doesn’t mean more than money to the person who brought it into Antiques Roadshow, or they would have simply kept it at home, liking it. My flat is full of things I like, and yet I have never once taken any of them to get a valuation because a) I remember buying them, as inheriting art and vases isn’t something my clan has got round to yet, and b) they actually mean more to me than money, so I don’t care what some bloke near Fiona Bruce thinks they’re worth.
But perhaps when you are the Shadow Chancellor, nothing is more emotive than someone finding an unexpected pile of cash. The worrying thing is that he has clearly revealed this soft side of himself to us in the hopes that it will make him more voter-friendly. But it makes me like him less. I don’t mind if Russell Grant cries when he’s booted off Strictly, but if you’re aiming to run the economy, rather than read my stars, I’d like you to find your stiff upper lip again.