Words That Still Resonate Today

Given that we’ve just heard the third leader’s speech of the 2011 Party Conference season, I was inspired to publish the following few paragraphs.

The speeches this year have not set the world alight. Oratory and rhetoric is a lost and dying art with the Blairs and Obamas massively in the minority as politicians who could deliver a cracking speech.

Clegg’s speech was completely forgettable, and also pretty irrelevant as the Tory party’s lapdogs in Parliament just doing what they’re told.

Ed’s speech had some really good content and ideas but needed a stronger central proposition running throughout and a bit of prosody to bring it to life. He also needs to keep working on his delivery.

Cameron had a decent delivery as a kind of third-rate Blair impersonator, but his speech seemed like it was written by four or five people and stitched together. It roamed all over the place and had very little solid to say as he had to completely ignore the economic facts which the rest of the country – who don’t have his £20 million fortune – are staring in the face.

Listening to the PM’s speech and looking at the detail of the Bill I’m working on in Parliament at the moment, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a speech that’s approaching 30 years of age but still resonates today as much as it did then.

In 1983, Neil Kinnock delivered a proper  political speech delivered in a soft voice but with real passion to a rally in Bridgend a couple of days before the general election of that year. In it, he issued his vision of life under a Tory goverment. And he wasn’t far wrong.

Here’s what he said:

If Margaret Thatcher is re-elected as prime minister on Thursday [for which today you can read if a thatcherite is running the country] , I warn you.

I warn you that you will have pain–when healing and relief depend upon payment.

I warn you that you will have ignorance–when talents are untended and wits are wasted, when learning is a privilege and not a right.

I warn you that you will have poverty–when pensions slip and benefits are whittled away by a government that won’t pay in an economy that can’t pay.

I warn you that you will be cold–when fuel charges are used as a tax system that the rich don’t notice and the poor can’t afford.

I warn you that you must not expect work–when many cannot spend, more will not be able to earn. When they don’t earn, they don’t spend. When they don’t spend, work dies.

I warn you not to go into the streets alone after dark or into the streets in large crowds of protest in the light.

I warn you that you will be quiet–when the curfew of fear and the gibbet of unemployment make you obedient.

I warn you that you will have defence of a sort–with a risk and at a price that passes all understanding.

I warn you that you will be home-bound–when fares and transport bills kill leisure and lock you up.

I warn you that you will borrow less–when credit, loans, mortgages and easy payments are refused to people on your melting income.

If Margaret Thatcher wins on Thursday:

  • I warn you not to be ordinary
  • I warn you not to be young
  • I warn you not to fall ill
  • I warn you not to get old.

Real powerful oratory, delivered in an understated way, probably learned stood on a soapbox in Wales. The current crop of party leaders could learn a thing or two from this one. And, just in case they’re reading, they can click below and watch it.

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One comment

  1. Thanks for this. As a generation old enough to remember we have a responsibility to pass on the lessons of history. I was pleased to be reminded, but all of a sudden the world looks a scarier place.

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