What a difference the best part of a decade makes. In 2010 we heard Gordon Brown launch the party’s bid to hold on to government with a Labour manifesto speech in Edgbaston. And in 2019 we heard a manifesto speech from Jeremy Corbyn, down the road at the City University in Birmingham.
Certainly the content of both speeches is very different. Despite everything that happened, Gordon Brown had some reputation for prudence. He did, after all, keep us out of the € Euro. And the £1.3 trillion cost of this Corbyn speech is definitely at odds with a Gordon Brown speech. However, the delivery and rhetoric has more than a few parallels.
Jeremy proved expressive with this manifesto speech, It’s Time For Real Change. He’s very fond of changes of tempo and the expressive pause. Yes, he’s prone to the occasional stumble, but that might well be something to do with the spectacles and the autocue. Still, it’s always a good plan to practise your autocue.
He’s also fond of some good old-fashioned repetition.
I accept the opposition of the billionaires, because we will make those at the top pay their fair share of tax to help fund world class public services for you. That’s real change.
I accept the hostility of the bad bosses paying poverty pay because we will give Britain a pay rise starting with a real living wage of at least £10 an hour, including for young workers – that’s real change.
I accept the implacable opposition of the dodgy landlords because we will build a million homes, empower tenants and control rents. That’s real change.
I accept the hostility of the big polluters because we will make sure they pay their fair share of the costs of their destruction, create a million climate jobs and build the healthy, green economy of the future – that’s real change.
The Jeremy Corby manifesto speech also featured key quotations from the likes of Franklin Roosevelt.
They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred.
and, Pablo Neruda
You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.
These are important blocks within any speech and Mr Corbyn uses them well.
Before he rose to his peroration we also had some more Trumpian echoes.
Not for sale. Not for sale.
So, after some 25 minutes the Labour manifesto speech returned to repetition.
If you’re reaching old age, Labour is on your side. We’ll protect pensions and provide free personal care. If you’re living with a disability, Labour is on your side. We’ll update the Equality Act and scrap Universal Credit.
If you’re a tenant, Labour is on your side. We’ll launch the biggest council house-building programme since the 1960s and cap rents. If you’re a new parent, Labour is on your side. We’ll guarantee 30 hours of free childcare for all 2 to 4 year olds.
A good, solid speech from the Labour leader that compares pretty well with that of the Labour leader in 2010.
A better fairer Britain. That was the theme of Gordon Brown’s Labour manifesto speech at the launch of the Labour Party’s 2010 election manifesto. Launching the manifesto, he spoke at a nearly-commissioned NHS hospital in the Edgbaston constituency. And it was there that he outlined three fundamental questions that needed answers:
Therefore, these questions and his answers became the main structure of the speech.
After that and in front of a selected audience of Party stalwarts and most of the Cabinet, Gordon Brown read his prepared speech with little deviation. Although he did overcome a few reading stumbles.
He carried the theme of fairness through the whole speech. So, we heard 20 mentions of the word “fair.”
Thus, the speech made excellent use of repetition. But, the best example was in the second half of the speech:
“This is the Britain of our commitment and vision.
It’s a Britain…
It’s a Britain…
It’s a Britain…
Finally, he combined this repetition at the close with a rhetorical questioning technique that also worked well:
“Which is the party of the family…?
Which is the party of making work pay…?
Which is the party of the NHS…?
Which is the party of growth and jobs…?
And which is the party of political reform…?
The answer is New Labour—the party with the plan for the future.”
His speech made sensible use of position takers, without referring to other political parties. So, this one worked with a reference to the Edgbaston NHS hospital in which Gordon Brown was speaking:
“For for those who say…Look at what, together, we have built — we didn’t just fix the roof — we built the entire hospital.”
All in all, this was a good well-delivered speech. But sentence lengths have a habit of running away in a Gordon Brown speech. This one was no exception:
“And that’s why we must build a Britain where no unemployed person can have a life time on the dole, but will have to accept work and where those who come here contribute to our country – but those who can’t or won’t don’t come, a Britain where anti-social behaviour and crime are dealt with quickly, where those who break the rules pay the price; and where, if you don’t get action, you can take out an injunction at the authority’s expense to secure the justice you need.”
Phew. Because these passages mark him out from his contenders for office and also from his predecessor in number 10. Since shorter sentences typically work better. Not least, because they are easier to read and they add up to effective public speaking. And, of course, an audience can grasp them more readily.
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