…there is an over-reliance on abstract words — “agenda”, “change”, “challenge” — and no sign that Mr Miliband wishes to speak directly to the general public. Our political class seems to have forgotten that this might, in a democracy, be a desirable accomplishment. Our 18th-century oligarchy produced oratory of such high calibre that the press clamoured to be allowed in to record it. Our 21st-century oligarchy produces oratory of such low quality that no one can be bothered to listen.
So writes Andrew Gimson in a superb article in the ever reliable Standpoint magazine. And even though the quotation specifies Mili E, it could be virtually anyone on the current political scene. In the UK that is.
Contrast the first presidential debate in the US, available on the BBC Parliament channel, YouTube etc. Pretty much everyone agrees that Romney thrashed Obama, even all of Barack’s buddies. Watching it properly, the most striking feature – apart from Romney’s easy authority over a fumbling Obama – was the intelligent level of questioning and discourse, in a calm atmosphere, and with a massive audience nationwide, about 70 million viewers. Nobody watches our party conferences.
We had a weak first go at this in the UK with the risible Cleggmania moment of the first debate back in the 2010 election campaign, but it was kiddy stuff in reality, though fun at the time. The party conferences haven’t suggested any change is imminent.
The Knife is not a fan of Obama, but given the level of support that he has from most of the US media, whatever he does, it’s a salutary reminder of the power of public speaking without a safety net, that his carefully preserved image has now been blown apart.
And it’s great to watch