IN watching Theresa May’s "close up and personal" tete a tete with BBC Radio 5 Live’s presenter, Emma Barnett, I felt conflicted and circumspect. Like a speeded up film of a darkening sky, the screen shot of the Prime Minister's face seemed to endure a multitude of worrying changes in the blink of an eye. It was hard to know who or what was going on underneath this virtual storm but here and there, through the dense cloud of her official persona, chinks of the real Theresa seeped through.

If the purpose of this one-to-one intimate dialogue was to reassure us that Theresa does actually feel feelings, it backfired almost as spectacularly as her bid to gain unequivocal authority in the June 8 General Election. The 5 Live interview was painful to watch, leaving me feeling complicit and voyeuristic, like slowing down on the motorway to ogle the horror of the car crash on the other side.

May admitted to "shedding a tear", but only for "a moment". The moment in question was when her Galahad of a husband, Phillip, came through to tell her on the night of the election that the exit polls weren't looking too good for her. May admits she felt "devastated".

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Her interlocutor, Barnett, sounds gentle but has got the scent. Like taking candy from a baby, she grooms the PM: “Were you devastated enough to shed a tear?” May, at this point, looks horrified, confused, panic-stricken, trapped. Time stops. Skilful and practised in these dark arts, Barnett effectively takes her by the hand and pulls her away from this vat of boiling emotional oil, saying: “For a moment?” (The timbre of Barnett’s voice here is infantilising, miniaturised to a teensy weensy, coaxing lull.)

As though she believes her life depends on it, May grabs her rescuer by both hands and replies: “Yes, for a moment.” The relief spreading over her face is palpable, definitely not fake. She is saved, unhooked from saying another word about those awfully awkward things called "feelings".

At last, we have something real. Her voice crackles just enough to suggest that she might actually shed another tear right here in front of the camera. Her eyes dampen over as she is exposed in this brief moment of vulnerability. But not for long. Immediately after almost losing it (but just for a moment), May tells Barnett that at that point, she got straight on the blower to Tory Party HQ and started being a leader again. My goodness, that was a close call.

But after the election, there was the Grenfell Tower disaster, and May’s difficulty with feelings inflamed us all over again, this time stripped bare for all to see. Looking back at the film footage of her diving for cover as the Grenfell residents, deeply shocked and traumatised in the days immediately after the fire, crowd around May and her entourage, it’s as plain as day what they need: just stop and be with them, Theresa, if only for a moment. All they want is for you to listen, to not run away, to stand there and take it and reassure them.

Hard, but certainly do-able and surely something that a competent leader should be able to offer. In May’s case, this is asking for the impossible.

Instead, she looks really frightened as she makes an un-ministerial dash for the ministerial car. I have never seen her move so quick (except maybe that time when she extricated her hand from the small but strong paw of Donald Trump when she was visiting the White House).

What did she think the strong feelings of the Grenfell survivors were going to do to her? Did she think it would be catching and that she’d end up crying tears of empathy?

I doubt Theresa May will ever recover from the shame of running from the Grenfell victims, either politically or personally. It's the sort of memory that can play like a leitmotif across the rest of your life, the type that comes to haunt you in the wee small hours when even Tory HQ is fast asleep.

It’s the type of cringe-making flashback that nothing and no-one can save you from – not even the brave and stoic Phillip. Some memories are almost impossible to rub out.

Those who survived the Grenfell fire will testify to that.