Viv Groskop: I wish our politicians were man enough to cry ... we know they want to
If you were a minister for welfare anywhere in the Western world right now, you'd probably be having more than a bit of a blub. You'd struggle to get out of bed. You'd have a blotchy face. There's no doubting the necessity for snotty-faced, red-eyed despair. There's your growth industry, Europe. Shares in balsam tissues. The only question is this: should you actually break down in public, sobs and all?
One Italian MP already has. Announcing a series of cutbacks and the harsh news that all but the lowest pensions would be frozen this year, Elsa Fornero, the new welfare minister, started crying before she could get her words out: "We – and this really cost us dear, psychologically even – we've had to ask for sac..." She broke off and was unable to whimper the word "sacrifices", leaving her speech unfinished.
The 30 seconds of footage are fascinating. Fornero goes from control to meltdown in a split second. It's beautiful and compelling to watch. Her male colleague takes over. It's a move which was probably necessary in the circumstances (Fornero literally can't speak) but makes him appear cold and bureaucratic.