Boris Johnson: HS2, Beginning, Middle and End

By Andrew Ivey | Public Speaking

Jan 17
Boris Johnson speech pattern

Boris Johnson speaks out

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has a reputation as a speaker of some ability. Yet, his speeches are prone to rhetorical flights of fancy, lengthy sentences, ums, ers and bluster.

He’s also a clever blusterer. His ruffled exterior disguises a speaker of some intellect.

This week his comments on the Government’s announcement of plans for the new high speed rail link (HS2) was a case in point.

Commenting on the green light for the HS2 link between London and Birmingham the Mayor sought inspiration from Winston Churchill:

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

(Winston Churchill 1942.)

Borrowing directly from the 1942 speech given by the Wartime Leader, Boris noted:

This is not the end of campaigning against HS2. This is not even the end of the beginning. This is the beginning of the middle of the beginning.

Other speakers have had more success with this turn of phrase in their speeches. Dr. Martin Luther King used a similar line in his 1963 I Have a Dream speech in Washington D.C.

Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning.

Dr. Martin Luther King

Dr. King edged it with a more serious and eloquent turn of phrase. And Boris gets the nod for his wit and bonhomie. And that’s the thing, wartime and civil rights leaders have the chance to rise to the top of the rhetoric podium. Their subject matter lends itself to some inspiring oratory.

The Mayor’s on the right track with his oratory. But set against a government intent on railroading this project through Parliament the Mayor will need to get up a whole new head of steam.

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About the Author

The Principal Trainer at training business Time to Market. Based in Oxford, I run presentation and public speaking training courses, coaching sessions and seminars throughout the UK.
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