Was the high drama of crying in Parliament a game changer for Lawrence Wong?

Was the high drama of crying in Parliament a game changer for Lawrence Wong?

by Augustine Low

It wasn’t just tearing up, it was choking up, a sustained spell of crying, possibly the longest in Parliament history.

Face scrunched up, voice breaking up, a pause here, a pause there to catch a breath, take off the glasses to wipe the tears, take a few sips of water, before finding the words and composure to finish off his 30-minute speech.

With that, Lawrence Wong leapt into the national consciousness, his crying images splattered over the TV, newspapers and Internet.

The day was 25 March 2020, the high drama of his choking up in Parliament while thanking healthcare workers and other Singaporeans for contributing to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

No doubt some thought it was a wayang act, but others felt that Lawrence Wong came across as sincere and dedicated, that he cared for the well-being of Singaporeans.

He suddenly became a darling to the establishment and its supporters because they craved someone with the knack for softening hearts.

The crying did Lawrence Wong good. It could even have been a game changer.

Then National Development Minister, he leapfrogged Ong Ye Kung and Chan Chun Sing (neither has cried) to be Deputy Prime Minister and PM-in-waiting.

Who knows, without his waterworks that day, Lawrence Wong might not be where he is today.

No doubt PM Lee Hsien Loong himself would have approved. No politician has cried more often than him.

PM Lee cried at a National Day rally while invoking the name of his father and recounting Singapore’s struggle for independence.

He cried during TV interviews after the passing of his father.

At the end of a two-day Parliament hearing on allegations raised by his siblings over 38 Oxley Road, PM Lee cried while recounting his father’s role in fighting for independence, and while talking about his father asking him to take care of his mother and siblings.

Politicians who cry risks being perceived as lacking in competence and control. It cannot be denied, though, that at the right time and place, tears can win over hearts and minds.

What do experts think of crying politicians?

Judi James, a behavioural expert, was quoted in BBC News: “Crying has a profound effect on someone. It’s something that babies do to get nurture and attention and love, and we are almost hard-wired to have an empathetic response and a sympathetic response and that will still occur.”

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