George Osborne gave his 2013 budget speech to a noisy and boisterous audience in the Commons today.
The speech, frequently interrupted, was helped along with the assistance of the Deputy Speaker who, at times, seemed to have more to say than the Chancellor.
In spite of his obvious throatiness, coughs and stalls the speech took in a full range of rhetorical techniques. We’ll leave it to cleverer types to fathom out whether he’s coughed up anything of value to us.
Rhetorical Devices Fill Budget Speech
He treated his wider audience to some repetition in his budget speech with at least ten mentions of “aspire” or “aspiration”:
For unless we fire up the aspirations of the British people, light the fires of ambition within our nation, we are going to be out-smarted, out-competed and out-performed by others in the world who are prepared to work harder for success than we are.
He managed to build some metaphor into another bit of repetition:
To win in the global race we are doing the exact opposite.
In this global race we cannot stand still…
That might have been a bit hackneyed, but for this speech it worked.
His speech was noteworthy for the way it sought support from his immediate and, no doubt the wider, audience. He took great delight in referencing individual constituency Members of Parliament–tying them into the flow of the speech.
My Honourable Friend for Harlow has again spoken up for his hard working constituents.
He’s been joined by many other Honourable Friends, like the Member for Argyll and Bute…
The Honourable Member for Stoke on Trent Central has argued passionately and in a non-partisan way about the damage energy costs are doing to his city’s famous ceramics industry – and he’s persuaded me.
This is an important device in any speech. And it’s probably more important with the Chancellor’s audience.
His rhetorical techniques extended to the politician’s favourite position taker:
Ask the British people and they’ll tell you: our problem as a country is not that we’re taxed too little but that the government spends too much.
I agree with them.
Good one. And just to prove that he wasn’t a one trick speaker he followed up with a classic not this, but statement:
So the tax cuts in this Budget aren’t borrowed; they are paid for.
Sloppy Language and Diction in Osborne Speech
But beyond the obvious use of rhetorical techniques the Chancellor did sound sloppy in other areas. He struggled with his diction. Either he wanted to sound like a man of the people or tiredness was kicking in:
If you wanna own your own home;
If you want help with your childcare bills;
If you wanna start your own business;
Or give someone a job;
If you wanna save for your retirement;
And leave your home to your children;
If you wanna work hard and get on;
A glottal stop? Not nice. Equally unsavoury were his references in the speech to “deliver”. When will his speech writers find an alternative to this Whitehall-speak that makes every branch of government sound akin to a bread delivery van?
And our country’s credibility comes from delivering (achieving) that plan, not altering it with every forecast.
Mr Deputy Speaker, the spending reductions we promised have been more than delivered (met).
We’ve set out the deficit plan – and we’re delivering (working to) that plan.
And so on…
Equally nauseating was his use of the word “generation”. It’s greatly over-used and it signals a politician who’s too lazy to find a date or a fact to back up his words. A business speech wouldn’t get away with it.
We’re already supporting the largest programme of investment in our railways since Victorian times – and spending more on new roads than in a generation.
He gave his speech at a fast and furious pace. Did he sense that his voice was going to fail him and he wanted to get it over with? Perhaps. But it was too fast for a full understanding by many in his wider audience.
Budget speeches are pure theatre and the Chancellor is now getting into the swing of them. This speech won’t prove to be a classic in the genre but it contained enough techniques and devices to prove noteworthy. And it certainly couldn’t be any worse than the furore after last year’s budget speech.
Now speech or no speech, we’d better go and check how worse off we are going to be.