Prime Minister Cameron, or Prime Minister Miliband, which one rings true with you?
Or even Prime Minister Nigel Farage. As the general election is just over 200 days away the speeches of these three leaders are worthy of some comparison.
I may be wrong, some may consider me a rank amateur or even a bore when I open my own mouth, but I have seen many speeches in my time and made many more, and I chair Scotland’s premier debating organisation, the English-Speaking Union of Scotland – so I think I am reasonably well qualified to give an opinion.
In considering those of Miliband, Farage and Cameron I can only say that the Labour leader’s made me cringe with embarrassment, Farage’s was rousing but essentially superficial, while Cameron’s was a tour-de-force of how to deliver a speech as a leader.
It was not so much that Cameron hit Milband for six, it was more like that memorable occasion when the great West Indian Gary Sobers hit six sixes from six balls live on television (go watch it on YouTube).
Miliband’s really was poor. If you are going to give a speech from memory then you have to achieve one thing to start with, and that is to memorise what you are going to say. Miliband did not even get past first base. There are techniques to do this – the most simple one being that you actually say at the outset the topics you are going to cover and you repeat this as you go through them. You’ve then given yourself a memorable prompt and your audience stays with you in expectation. Ed Miliband called his speech a job interview, well had that been in front of me he would remain jobless.
The most important issue facing the country is and remains the deficit that feeds our national debt. Until we balance the books and start to pay down the debt, we, our children, and their children not yet born, will be paying higher taxes, suffering poorer public services and enduring higher interest rates. Our deficit and its resulting debt effects our NHS, our schools, national defence and everything else that our politicians care to speak about. To forget about it is to underline just how out of touch Ed Miliband is and the bizarre sense of priorities he has.
The speech of Nigel Farage was not so much done from memory as made up as he went along in the entertaining fashion that he is good at. He knew what he wanted to say but he is able to think on his feet and add to it and work an audience like an old pro.
He said what his supporters needed to hear and no doubt also appealed to viewers and listeners beyond the Doncaster Racecourse. But while it ticked all of those boxes it was essentially superficial, for it lacked the sort of detail that we should now be getting from him.
In many ways Farage is a class act at oratory, he is sincerely self-deprecating, making jokes at his own expense throughout his speeches, and he is able to point to obvious injustices by offering to stand up for the ordinary, for the little people, for those who feel they do not have a voice. But last week was the time for Nigel Farage to start using a teleprompter and give the speech of a statesman, instead he chose to do it like the noisy backbencher or stand-up comic that is his meat and drink.
If he continues to travel down that road he will fail to attract the sceptics that identify with what he says but remain unsure about him as a politician to be trusted.
David Cameron’s speech was something else altogether. Yes, at times his gesticulations seemed a little bit hammy, but this was a very well-constructed speech that had been thought through. It hammered all the right buttons he needed to press, it had light and shade, it was funny, moving, emotive and rousing. it had detail and announced memorable policies. When Tory canvassers knock on doors they will be taking points out of that and people will know about them and either connect or question them.
By getting those policies out now Cameron will draw the criticisms and have answers for them when the election comes. He will run private polling to find which ones work best and then prioritise them. Then he will add to them with additional policies he is keeping back. So it was not just a speech it was the opening moves of the election campaign.
The other point to understand is the speeches of Cameron and his Chancellor George Osborne are co-ordinated. Osborne is the bad cop dealing with all the difficult finance issues while Cameron is the good cop saying how he is going out of his way to solve our problems. Subconsciously with voters this is a very clever tactic and we can expect more announcements from both that catch Labour on the hop and squeeze out the oxygen of publicity from Ukip.
Cameron’s speech was a masterclass – and if it was a job interview then he just got hired.