Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Speechwatch - David Cameron's 2014 Conference speech.

David Cameron made his last conference speech before the 2015 General Election with a clear aim in mind - to look like a prime minister ready for a second term. His theme; "A Britain everyone is proud to call home" ran throughout, in a statesmanlike delivery that was in some contrast to the forgetful approach from Ed Miliband. Like Barack Obama, Mr Cameron made use of poster-sized autocue screens at the back of the hall. 

Rather than find his case studies on the heath, he sought a Normandy veteran, who received a huge standing ovation early in the speech, which set the tone of patriotism that ran throughout. It was clearly a pre-election speech, sounding not unlike a manifesto, with a number of promises, including a large increase in the tax-free allowance, to help that political meme "hard-working people".

Naturally, he had a jibe at the opposition leader for forgetting to mention the deficit with a nice piece of self-mockery about things he'd forgotten himself. As usual with politicians, he doesn't do humour very well. 

He has a tendency to drop into a soft monotone just before delivering a strong phrase. I detect some coaching there, and I'm not sure it quite works. 

In a remarkable section on education, he accused Labour of "hypocrisy". A bit of pot and kettle there, methinks. He also talked of the Tory party as being a "trade union" for many different groups. That played well in the hall, but the reaction on Twitter was not so warm. He referred to Twitter too, in a quip that fell flat. 

As ever, as do all politicians, he employed a number of triple phrases with rising emphasis, or "clap-traps" as speechwriters call them. They worked well, especially since he emphasised them with a double-handed gesture, which produces almost Pavlovian applause. He's not as adept at applause-surfing

He became emotional in a section about the NHS, receiving a standing ovation, more for the way he spoke than what he said. Quite unusual for a political speech.

There was but one reference to UKIP, played out in a gag about "going to bed with Nigel Farage and waking up with Ed Miliband". Best laugh of the whole speech.

He's not one of the great political orators, coming across more like a competent CEO than an inspirational leader. However, maybe that's what people want. He definitely outperformed the Labour leader, and threw down a gauntlet for the election campaign. Time will tell if he judged it correctly. 

I'd say it's his best conference speech so far. Eight out of ten.


Mike Ogilvie said...

Well that was very fair from you Maestro

Ian R McAllister said...

We sadly live in a world of processed-cheese "headline-driven" UK politicians, where people like Salmond and idiots like Farage get votes because they at least stand for something. Of all the current Westminster leaders, the one who communicates best and has a bit of a vision is Cameron - but that's not saying much! Best of the leader speeches so far, and I agree with you 8/10 rating. But as we saw in the referendum, a long way to got till May 2015