Indeed, if they come across as particularly human, voters will forgive them all sorts of indiscretions in their public and personal lives; much has been written about George W Bush's battle with alcoholism, and Bill Clinton ultimately won public approval back, once he admitted that yes, sex is sex and he had indeed committed adultery. People responded to him as if he was a naughty, middle aged uncle in their own families, who's natural charm and good looks gets them into all sorts of bother. And while Tony Blair will never really be forgiven for his naivety in allowing Britain to be dragged into the Iraq war, on a personal level, much of the public and the media still find him incredibly charismatic; there is a vulnerability in his eyes when he does that strange smile, as if he is desperate for our approval, and many conclude, as naïve as he was, it does sound like he thought he was doing the right thing at the time. Sincerity, it seems, goes a long, long way in politics.
This way in which the general public relate to politicians, on an unconscious, emotional level, poses a genuine problem for the Labour Opposition, I would suggest, for I can think of few Shadow Ministers who come across as thinking, feeling, emotional beings - like the rest of us - with the exception perhaps of Andy Burnham, who is never afraid to say and show exactly what he's feeling. We all saw his response, at the Hillsborough 20th Anniversary Memorial Service, back in 2009, he was starting to get booed and heckled by Liverpool fans, who felt angry and betrayed at the Labour government's failure to uncover the truth about what happened that day, and as the crowd launched into their moving "Justice for the 96" chant, Burnham just stood there in silence, completely acknowledging their pain and frustration, his body language was so genuine and so in tune with the song going round the stadium, it was obvious he was very much on the people's side, the fans' side; you can hear in his voice up to that point, and after it, that he is incredibly moved, and straight after this of course, he famously secured the Home Secretary's support (Jacqui Smith) in the releasing of secret files, which had been previously declined by Jack Straw.
I'm not suggesting, here on this blog, that Andy Burnham should challenge for the Labour leadership, and I'm not suggesting he shouldn't, what I'm actually saying is, given that people can only connect with politicians when they come out and tell us what they think and how they feel, about what is happening in people's lives, under this brutal Tory regime, how do Labour expect to win enough support for election victory in 2015, when most of the Shadow Cabinet don't come out and say anything at all, presumably for fear of saying the wrong thing. It leaves people asking, "Do the rest of them actually understand how these cuts are destroying lives, human relationships, people's sense of hope? Do they even care?"
In politics, as with love, fortune favours the brave!
You can buy Sue Gerhardt's excellent book, "The Selfish Society", here Gerhardt - The Selfish Society