Wednesday, October 12, 2005


television political communication

Political speaking styles vary a great deal but the reecent 'beauty contest' between the five candidates for leadership of the Tories showed some interesting variations. We all know communication has changed in the television age. Gladstone used to harangue thousands for an hour or more at his meetings but now the attention span is lower and the style has to be intimate: one to one, to transmit effectively over the distance between the politician in the corner of the room and the owner of the television. Michael Foot, famously used to address television audiences as if they were public meetings and failed miserably to move the nation. Thatcher learnt the basics of how to perform the trick through her guru Gordon Reece. Others- Blair springs to mind-have the ability apparently woven onto their political dna.

But the test at Blackpool was slightly different. Candidates had to address a live audience of activists- some of them quite desperate to be out of power, these last eight years or so-with a television audience hovering somewhere in the background. In consequence the best performers were those who best blended the public platform with the television style. Davis failed to connect, Clarke was too concerned to play himself, Rifkind did creditably but seemed a bit past it. Only the young Cameron hit the right blend with his eschewal of notes and ability to deliver his speech while on the move. It was the perfect blend of both genres and tuned into the wavelengths of both audiences. It's all about Cameron now and just because he had mastered the medium of the contest. I suspect he'll go on doing so.

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