This article appeared in The Herald
There was, apparently, more crying on The X Factor this week. Quite a spectacle: Cheryl Cole, a former winner on the programme, and a young woman named Cher Lloyd – who has “got through” – keening away together like a pair of infant marmoset monkeys. In other news, there will be tax hikes due at some point.
Crying is like a form of punctuation on television nowadays. People cry if they win something, or if they don’t, or if they come last. They cry if they like the fuchsia the makeover team has done their living room up in, or if they hate it. They cry for no rhyme or reason, and to show that they are capable of it.
It is the same in sport. You may very well have seen the Spanish goalkeeper crying when his team scored during the World Cup final and satisfied yourself with the explanation that he is Latin. But the fact is our own athletes currently in Delhi for the Commonwealth Games will have put the drainage system there under considerable duress before they leave.
Tears are, in short, all the rage. It may be that the death of Princess Diana started everyone off by divorcing embarrassment from emotional incontinence, but the New Labour years were marinated in the latter, as is evident in the torrent of memoirs they spawned. Even as early as 2000, Andrew Rawnsley, in one of his many books, was telling us about a Downing Street weepathon after Peter Mandelson’s first resignation: “[Alastair] Campbell, himself blubbing, gave Mandelson a hug.”
No doubt it can be argued that tears are a sign of one’s emotional intelligence, or that the old stiff upper lip approach lacks a certain humanity. But there is a difference between real tears of sorrow and tears at some check to one’s ambitions, which are merely childish.
Churchill, it is said, frequently shed tears in public but, then, a combination of war war and strong drink is perhaps likely to have that effect. I have otherwise always held it to be an article of faith that, whatever their other failings, Conservatives do not cry at trifles. When others around her snivel and sob, therefore, I would expect Ann Widdecombe, who is currently appearing on television’s Strictly Come Dancing, to maintain her sangfroid and simply look bewildered. But we shall see. Perhaps she will agree to serve one of Ken Clarke’s community sentences if she fails.