Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

By Andrew Ivey | Speeches

Jun 16
Grant Shapps MP

Grant Shapps MP, Minister for Housing and Local Government

The Minister is new and he’s definitely blue. Tory blue! But there was something definitely old and borrowed about the speech given by the new Minister for Housing at the Royal Institution for Chartered Surveyors (RICS) in London.

His speech was undeniably well-constructed and of a good length. The introduction used self-deprecating humour to good effect:

“As one of my staff cruelly pointed out – ‘Minister, you spent longer as a shadow than Cliff Richard!'”

His theme of “aspiration” was clear from the beginning, throughout the speech and hammered home in his conclusion.

He made good use of position takers such as:

“Now, my predecessor famously said that falling levels of home ownership were ‘not such a bad thing’….I believe that home ownership is a very good thing.”

Not this…but that phrases were also used well with some repetition for added effect:

“So in place of those meaningless targets–we will introduce powerful incentives. In place of centralisation–I will devolve power. In place of expensive Quangos–we will trust people.”

This turn of phrase is very Cameroon. And it shows how the new government is joining up its communications across the various departments. But there’s an issue.

Many of the Whitehall speech writing staff are still conditioned to the old government. In the Minister’s conclusion we heard:

“The last thing we need is a return to the house price boom and bust of recent years.”

Yes, it’s factually right, but it’s a form of words borrowed from a previous Chancellor, Gordon Brown.

Equally borrowed was the theme, the age of aspiration. Gordon Brown’s first speech to a Labour Party Conference as Leader in 2007 used this extensively. And Gordon Brown used the same form of words in an interview as recently as January 2010.

How do I suspect that Whitehall staffers were involved with this speech? Well, one sentence is a telling clue…

“Borrowers will need to demonstrate financial responsibility and show that they can sustain homeownership.”

Wow! That’s straight out of the former Government’s speech writing handbook.

There are new Tory blue ideas here. But there are telltale signs of old, borrowed phrases.

Note to self…must have a word with the Permanent Secretary.

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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. Andrew Ivey on Google+

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