David Randall isn't too keen on the public display of affection by politicians and their partners, as in the Sarah and Gordon show at Labour's conference in Manchester. Once it would have been unthinkable - Randall invites us to imagine Winston and Clementine Churchill or Clement and Violet Attlee. Now it's everywhere.
I'm with him on the lament. What makes it so yuck-making is that you know it can't be sincere. Not that they don't lurve one another; for all we know, they do. But if the expression of their lurve has the public purpose it has - convincing the voters or whatever - that instrumental aspect of it undoes the pretence of a genuine show of affection.
On the other hand, while it isn't invariably true that a country gets the government it deserves, in this matter, at least, the public gets the public displays of affection it deserves. For these things would go nowhere if there weren't a public willing to lap them up. And that includes the media. Look at the Gordon and Sarah kiss-up. In several would-be serious newspapers the next day I avoided reading earnest discussions of whether it had made a difference to Brown's chances of survival. Gimme a break, will you... If this isn't dumbing down for political dummies, orchestrated by the press, it's dumbing down for political dummies. So Sarah loves Gordon - what the hell has it got to do with his qualities of leadership?
And on another other hand, that is a quite separate issue from whether middle-aged couples in general - I mean people not in the public eye - should permit themselves to be seen holding hands while out and about. David Randall doesn't like this either. But he isn't obliged to look at them and they have as much right and cause to be affectionate towards one another as any young whippersnappers do. They're going about their business and not on a political platform using their affection to win votes or approval.