With the visually rich backdrop of Edinburgh castle the Prime Minister, David Cameron, made an equally rich state of the union speech yesterday preceding talks on a Scottish independence referendum. This Scotland Union speech drew immediate attention to his leadership of a minority political party in Scotland. And he appeared to make light of it. That was perhaps the only strategy available.
Speaking from notes his body position never seemed settled. He had to look to both extremes of left and right to clearly view his audience. That might be a metaphor for the political views in his audience. But it’s not intentional.
As a speaker he’s also got himself into another habit. He bends his knees and crouches into his microphone as he emphasises key points in his speeches. This habit is slightly unsettling . It could even be distracting. Again there’s no metaphor intended with a Tory Prime Minister on bended knee in Scotland, pleasing as it might be to some. Can you read too much into body position or body language? Perhaps, but it can also be insightful, not least when there’s a Leader involved.
But body movement apart, there’s also a marked difference with this speech. One senses that there’s a new speech writing team in Downing Street.
Descriptive phrases featured very prominently in this speech…sounding very similar to the public speaking style of a Michael Gove speech.
For example we heard:
The air in Scotland hangs heavy with history. Edinburgh’s cityscape is studded with monuments to memories.
And while the hauntingly empty acres of the Highlands stand in mute memorial to the injustices visited on the victims of the clearances, Glasgow’s magnificent architecture and art galleries remind us of the mercantile greatness of the Empire’s second city.
Symbolism, like the castle backdrop, was everywhere in this speech. We had military symbolism:
That’s not because I want to dragoon Scotland into an arrangement which is in my interests. Or, frankly, my party’s interests.
That is partly because its history is populated so thickly with great men and women who we might want to conscript for our contemporary battles.
From Waterloo to the Second World War our servicemen and women have fought and won together. The liberation of Europe was a battle fought to the skirl of the pipes as Lord Lovat’s Highlanders were among the first ashore on D-Day in the battle to defeat Hitler.
But with the symbolism to one side, this speech spoke clearly with one purpose, or one message as the Prime minister noted:
So – I come here today with one simple message: I hope and wish that Scotland will vote to remain part of the UK.
And that purpose is, of course, all-important. I mean, why give a speech?
A rich language was certainly the highlight of this speech. But rhetorical flourishes, favoured by the Prime Minister, featured prominently. There was some excellent alliteration with:
A United Kingdom which is not monoglot, monochrome and minimalist but multi-national, multi-cultural and modern in every way. Our United Kingdom.
By way of peroration his speech noted:
If anything’s worth fighting for that surely is; which is why I’m ready for the fight for our country’s life.
More martial symbolism in a re-capitulation of the main point for this speech.
You can always pick up your own public speaking tips with our regular series of tips for speakers. And, of course, when you are looking to extend your own range of public speaking skills please don’t hesitate to get in touch about public speaking courses or coaching.
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