Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Gordon Brown's Conference Speech analysed

I've just left a studio at Sky News, having commented live on Gordon Brown's Conference speech. I'm now sitting in the back of a car on the North Circular Road on the way home, so just setting out my initial reaction.

It was a solid, unspectacular performance - the kind we've come to expect from Gordon. There were three and a half standing ovations, and polite applause throughout. He stumbled over words a few times, showing his nerves, and was not helped by his speech writers, with several tongue-twisting phrases, and a lot of negatives "We won't even think of doing that, we'll do this instead"

The start was very strong, with a huge ovation for the list of Labour achievements. His warm-up act (Sarah Brown yet again) was brilliant - in fact we may have seen the UK's Hillary Clinton.

As the speech went on, it dragged into detail, some of it quite confusing, especially on fiscal policy (note to speakers - don't use the word fiscal in a speech unless you are speaking to economists). There were a few jokes at his own expense, but alas, he can't tell jokes well.

There were one or two decent sound bites "Markets need morals" "Never stop believing", but not much of the speech was memorable. It's 30 minutes since he sat down, and I've forgotten most of it already.

Some of the applause was a bit forced, and he's clearly been told to use gestures more than last year. It looked like he was chopping down a reluctant tree at one point.

There were a few good digs at the opposition in the closing section, but overall, my impression was of a man who wanted to avoid making any mistakes rather than someone with an inspiring vision. Maybe because that's the type of man he is, so perhaps we saw the real Gordon Brown.

Let's see how David Cameron responds next Thursday.


Ian R McAllister said...

Good comments Alan, solid but personally yawning: do you think Nick Clegg did better, that was my impression?

The main reasons I like your piece here was this comment: "It's 30 minutes since he sat down, and I've forgotten most of it already."

The Labour spin-doctors will not be happy if it doesn't make an impact beyond the 6'oclock news, but I think that's what the voters will make of it

Alan said...


I think Clegg put on a better show last week, but made a mistake in going "freestyle" rather than using a lectern. David Cameron has now dropped the style, since it doesn't look statesman-like.

Brown's speech started well (following a brilliant intro by his wife), but rapidly descended into conference-u-like sound bites.

Max Atkinson said...

Agree entirely - but I think it was more than the gestures that were coached. The good start was achieved by doing something I've never seen him do before, namely 'surfing the applause' (on which, see my instant take on the speech at http://bit.ly/YkO95).

I'd be fascinated to know who put him up to that - and why, if he is taking advice, no one's managed to persuade him to cut the length and stop inflicting information overload on his unfortunate listeners.

Kate Atkin said...

Hi Alan, I was surprised by how well he did. Yes, a very strong intro by Sarah...she's a fantastic warm up act for him.

He used humour early on and then went into his ususal serious style. Had he tried to be vastly different he would have been criticised for not "being himself". He seemed more at ease this time than he often appears.

I thought his body language was for the most part strong, with good vocal variety. Repeated use of phrases such as "if you are..., don't take it from me, just ask them the question..." to hit at the Conservatives and ending on the repetition of "never stop believing".

In contrast Nick Clegg's speech was refreshing in style (away from the lecturn) and connected more to the emotions of the audience.

I too look forward to seeing David Cameron's speech next week.