I am way too cautious a person to count my chickens before they’re hatched, to cross my bridges before I come to them, all that.

But in my compulsive checking of poll results, I began to think about Stephen Harper and about why voters have started to back carefully away from him.

It’s not all about an “economic meltdown.”  Many people I know have financial worries and they have nothing to do with a stock portfolio.  They have to do with the cost of home heating which is expected to be double last winter’s cost. 

Or they have to do with the increase in price for bread, flour and rice — not the stealthy penny-at-a-time increase which can slip by but the really noticeable jump in the cost of these staples.

It’s not Harper’s remarks about culture either, as insulting and patronizing as they were.  And it’s probably not about putting children in prison — although I, for one, fear the privatization of prisons with their need for more and more “clients” in order to keep profits up.

Here’s what I think it is:  I think it’s the blue sweater.  I think people look at that ad and say, “Why is this guy pretending to be someone he’s not?”  He may be a good father — or not — and, in a certain context, that may be an important point about him.  But not in a job interview, not when he scorns policies that would offer some support to other people’s families.  And I don’t think he talks that way either.

I don’t care whether Stephen Harper plays the piano, likes hockey or shakes his kids’ hands. I have less-than-zero interest in his family.

People are surely wondering if those ads are just intended to distract from his not-so-hidden agenda and if he’s not-so-subtly just trying to manipulate us. Perhaps this motive is so obvious that voters have been driven to look more closely at what he really represents.

My friend, who lives in Germany, was amazed on opening the Conservative website, to see so much American-style emphasis on the family. She found it a little distasteful. 

“It almost makes German politicians like Gerhard Schröder and Oskar Lafontaine with their multiple marriages (both are on wife number four, I think) seem appealing!” she wrote. 

Hear, hear, say I.  It seems likely that a little touch of matrimonial diversity would remove at least one layer of smug, family-glorifying hypocrisy.