It was man-splay central – body language experts verdict on Tory TV debate
It was man-splay central on stage at the leadership debate tonight with the five male candidates sitting legs akimbo on their stools to bicker, battle and sometimes nod in agreement as they fielded a series of questions from the public.
When a pack looks alike and moves alike the one looking and moving differently will always feel like a threat and that was the role the Mick Jagger of politics Rory Stewart took as the only candidate without a tie and with his feet plonked on the ground rather than on the footrest.
As the others let rip with flurries of over-emphatic gesticulation and volleys of precision gestures that were supposed to make us believe they had very forensic plan for Brexit, Rory either fell forward in his chair with his head down like a puppet with the strings cut, or appeared to be doing some kind of calisthenics, stretching and looking round at times as though bored.
When he spoke about the others’ plans his top lip rose in a sneer that revealed his top row of teeth.
Boris, in contrast, was like a dredger making its way up the Thames, solid and immobile, ignoring Emily’s questions and comments and staring straight ahead for a lot of his points.
He’d lost the smug smile and instead his eyebrows were puckered in concern to give an new air of gravitas.
His gestures tended to be inclusive with his hands scoping round the group and he spoke of himself as PM as though the result was a given.
When asked about the power of words Boris smelled a trap and rocked in his seat before throwing his hands into the air.
After a swift apology for some of his comments, he then slapped his knees and fiddled with his cuffs as though impatient to get it all over.
Javid had a better debate than Sunday, even putting Rory on the spot at the end via a killer question but Hunt looked less assured and calmly charming than he did on Sunday, sounding slightly breathless as he made his points.
Gove had lost his state of aggressive arousal and delivered his points more calmly and less dramatically.
His mirroring of Boris’s pose suggested the two men might be more in tune than now than we’d think.
Boris did make a point of agreeing with some of Gove’s point and when Gove threw his arms out in a gesture of group reconciliation Boris did seem to be nodding keenly.