Chris Markiewicz's Blog
Every Monday – thoughts, observations and ideas that hold up a mirror to who & how we are

What’s with the hands?

There I am, settling down one evening last week to watch a bit of TV on my computer. Searching through the BBC iplayer, I came across what looked like an interesting programme. I think it was called “Building Cars Live” and featured a visit to the Mini car plant in Cowley. The main presenter was James May, one of the cheeky chappies from Top Gear along with two others, a woman and a man, whom I didn’t know.

I watched the programme for less than ten minutes before having to switch off. Was the subject matter boring? No, I actually have quite a keen interest in matters automotive. Did something else crop up that I had to attend to? Nope.

I simply could take no more.

Those presenters could not keep their hands to themselves. I’m not suggesting the show degenerated into some kind of car factory based ménage a trois – I think you’d need internet sites other than the BBC to find that kind of stuff.

They seemed compelled to incessantly gesticulate in that contrived way that presenters and others in public life –especially TV presenters and politicians – seem to have to do these days.

I blame Tony Blair. I have him down as being the first high profile exponent of the engineered hand and body gesture. This is now a big industry that has developed over the past twenty years or so, that takes politicians, TV presenters and the like and coaches them in body language “techniques” in order for them to better influence and, wait for it……. “appear more sincere”.

Hand gestures are a natural part of how we communicate and I have no issue with that. However, it’s the natural that appears to be missing in all this. UK readers of a certain age will remember TV presenters from a couple of decades back,  like Magnus Pyke and David Bellamy who exuded a natural enthusiasm through their hand gestures and body movements. They were well loved presenters who needed no coaching in how to convey their enthusiasm. You’ll even see a difference between the pre-coached Jeremy Clarkson and the post coached version of more recent years.

And, so to the other Jeremy C. I was immensely impressed with Jeremy Corbyn’s acceptance speech when voted in as Labour leader. I’m talking less about the content here, more about his presence. Not once did I see a surplus or contrived hand gesture or body movement. He showed dignity and poise without any consultant having earned mega bucks taking him through how he “should” look. And, what adjective was used any number of times about him as a result?


Part of me wonders, as I write this, whether I am alone in my observation and criticism of all this. Yet, I then remind myself of the times I talk about this on my courses and of the sea of nodding heads and knowing smiles as I share these thoughts with rooms full of delegates.

I wonder whether more public figures will follow Mr Corbyn’s lead and let go of the need to practice this faux sincerity and enthusiasm, or whether the other Jeremy will prevail, along with Tony, James et al.

I never did find out how Minis are built. Oh well.

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