Wisdom or Waffle? Yes, Political Speech Season is Here Again

Speeches to be given on both sides of the Atlantic over the next six weeks will not only make or break political careers, but shape the political landscape of the future. The major UK party conferences begin later this month, and the US presidential election campaign is already underway. The speeches given at those conferences, and on the US campaign trail, will go a long way to deciding which politicians will succeed, and which will fail.

At Great Speechwriting, we are watching intently to see what the men and women who would shape our futures will make of their moments in the limelight. A well-crafted speech can play to a politician’s strengths, in terms of intellect, experience or likeability, while diminishing any weaknesses. They key is original and memorable phrases that get across the speaker’s key ideas with apparent ease. In reality of course, the politicians and their speechwriters will be hard at work already.

The party conference season actually began early in September with the Green Party. Their new leader Natalie Bennett made a nervous debut, but took aim at Labour as the originators of many coalition policies, presenting the Greens as the only real alternative. But Bennett’s party is still on the margins of UK politics, and it is the big three party conferences that will really make headlines. David Cameron and Nick Clegg both face the challenge of pleasing their own parties without alienating their coalition partners. Cameron still has to convince the country that behind his easy charm he has the resolve, and the ideas, to deal with the dire ongoing economic situation. And Clegg is still struggling to get anywhere near his pre-election popularity, and to convince his party that the coalition compromises were worth it. Meanwhile, Ed Miliband needs to position himself as a credible alternative prime minister.

And in October, the Scottish National Party conference will take on a UK-wide significance, setting the scene for the party’s independence referendum campaign. Alex Salmond is an accomplished speaker and easily the most popular politician in Scotland, but he still has to convince voters not only that he has what it takes to lead an independent Scotland, but that independence is desirable in any case.

In the US, Obama and Romney are more or less neck and neck in the polls, and every speech is an opportunity to win over doubters, or to turn them off completely. (The winner will then have to get to work on his all-important inaugural address, in a bid to get the whole country behind his presidency). Obama is generally seen as the better speaker, but many who lapped up his ‘Yes, we can’ optimism last time around now suspect there was little of substance behind it. How he deals with such suspicions, while promising ‘new hope’ for the next four years, will be crucial. Romney was not the choice of the Tea Party activists who dominated the Republican primaries – and who favour bombastic oratory – but he will have to reassure ‘values voters’ that he is their man while presenting himself as a great business leader who makes a credible candidate. His running mate Paul Ryan, dubbed the ‘Tea Party intellectual’ will definitely be worth watching too.

Political oratory is often seen as a lost art, and perhaps it’s true that the days of great speakers like Gladstone or Bevan addressing vast crowds belong to another era. But the likes of Blair and Obama have emerged as powerful and effective speakers in the modern television age. And while party conferences are often derided today as stage-managed showpieces rather than meaningful political events, YouTube and Twitter mean every gaffe or moment of brilliance can go viral in seconds. The most successful speakers today are those best able to get the balance right between winning over the room and getting a message across to a wider and more diverse audience.

For more information or for help with your political speech, please contactLawrence@greatspeechwritingpro.com or call +44 (0)207 118 1600