Election 2015 – when the best political speeches came too late

From a political speech writing perspective, this was an election to forget. The campaign lasted for weeks, and yet there were few really memorable speeches.

For the most part, the key players confirmed to their own stereotypes. And that, in a nutshell, was why the election campaign was so unremarkable.

Ed Milliband improved a little from a technical perspective. Nick Clegg did the right things, but people stopped listening some time ago. David Cameron gave us just what we expected.

The common denominator was a lack of empathy.   Language (often including the repeated use of the presidential first person) was generally uninspiring and unoriginal.   Phrases that mean little were repeated ad infinitum (“hard working families” in particular).

There were two possible causes of this mediocrity.

The first was that these leaders are just unable to express themselves with genuine insight, passion and magic. The second was that they had the personalities to do so, but were managed by spin doctors who strangled any spontaneity out of them.

As the results poured in, it was easy to assume the first.   But, during the course of Friday, we heard the concession speeches. And, as if by magic, real people emerged.

Ed Milliband touched a cord with his admission of failure, his re-iteration of his convictions, his sympathy for the fallen and his humble vote of thanks to his party: “Thank you for the privilege. I joined this party aged 17. I never dreamed I would lead it.”

Nick Clegg, who we have a lot of time for as a speaker (we are politically neutral!), was equally open, heartfelt and humble.   “It’s simply heart-breaking to see so many friends and colleagues who have served their constituents over so many years abruptly lose their seats because of forces entirely beyond their control.”

Even Ed Balls, a man not typically described with touchy-feely adjectives, was self-effacing, magnanimous and engaging.

And so, in their moment of weakness, each of these men felt able to open up and to be themselves. Each had his own Andy Murray moment, where losing enabled them to become more likeable.

The 323 seat question, is what would have happened had they spoken in this personal way earlier and more often.

Politics is a tough business. Every slip-up is videoed, documented and lampooned. The culture of the Chamber is confrontational.   Campaigns are increasingly fought on the basis of constituency mathematics. Emotion is seen as a liability. And so our politicians erect a shield around themselves. The result is public speaking homogeneity.

And so we began to see genuine people emerge only when it was too late. Which is a shame. Ed is clearly a decent, emotional bloke after all. Nick may have made a mistake four years ago, but he really cares.

Undoubtedly, a similar cycle will emerge during the next five years. Our politicians will exchange snipes and soundbites and refuse to reveal their ‘real’ selves. Yet approximately a third of registered voters stayed away from the polls, reflecting a weariness with politics and the political class. How and why will that change?

When we work with high profile speakers, our aim is always to help get their own voice out there. To ensure that whatever the subject, their insights are personal and relevant.

Perhaps these are lessons to be learned. It seems a shame to wait until after the votes have been cast to reveal the more engaging character hiding beneath the party line.