From kissing babies, to allowing a photographer to record your most intimate moments, politicians the world over are desperate to present themselves as normal, ordinary people. And, most of the time, it has precisely the opposite effect.
Gordon Brown saying he listened to Arctic Monkeys while preparing his notes for the next Eco-fin meeting? Nick Clegg admitting he'd slept with "no more than 30 women"? David Cameron inviting the cameras into No 10 for a fly-on-the-wall photoshoot which, among other things, "revealed" him hard at work at the stove under the admiring gaze of his wife? Tony Blair saying he was "a regular kind of guy" who used to stand on the terraces at Newcastle United? Do we believe any of it? Not really. Can we detect a spot of spin when we see it? Of course we can.
The latest politician whose attempt to sculpt a man-of-the-people pose may be doomed to failure is the shadow chancellor, Ed Balls who, in an interview with Total Politics magazine, told how he is regularly moved to tears by Antiques Roadshow. Oh really? Are we meant to believe that this rough, tough political operator, who had a reputation (possibly unfairly) as Gordon Brown's Treasury rottweiler, sits there blubbing while an old lady with white hair finds out from Fiona Bruce that the collection of teaspoons she found in the attic is worth at least a thousand pounds? You can just picture the scene on Sunday evenings in the Balls household. "Come off it, Edward," says Yvette. "It's only a blinking porcelain spaniel!" "But you don't understand, my dear. This spaniel has been in that woman's family for generations and it's just been valued at two grand!" Cue more tears.
Ed also reveals that he cries when he watches The Sound of Music. Let's hope that he never catches the John Lewis Christmas advert: they might need to launch the lifeboats! Of course, the temptation to be cynical about politicians is too great to resist. We've been spun to so many times that we're entitled to see their every effort to show a human side as a calculation. And, in some ways, they just can't win. You can't succeed unless you have a personality that sits well with the voters. Wasn't Gordon's professed love of Arctic Monkeys a response to polling which indicated he was seen as a remote, technocratic figure whom the electorate found forbidding? Lot of good it did him.
I always thought he would have been much better off being true to himself; as a man who is happier analysing growth projections for the Eurozone than bothering with the fripperies of pop music.
Above all, the public can spot a phoney a mile off.
And I'm afraid, Ed, we're just not buying it. Even if it is a family heirloom.Follow @Simon_Kelner Reuse content