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Has anything really changed?

Posted by Richard Thursday, October 04, 2007 , ,

For sure, the Tories are in good heart, lauding their Boy leader for his "sincerity" and his delivery of an "unscripted" speech lasting 67 minutes.

Melanie Phillips, however, is less than impressed. "Call me perverse," she writes, but:

…the thing that's drawn the most plaudits about David Cameron's speech yesterday is the thing that puts me off the most. Yes, it was a remarkable feat of memory, coolness and bravado to deliver a 67 minute peroration without reading it. But what was the point of doing that? To convince us of his sincerity, that he was speaking from the heart …

But it was clearly not an impromptu set of remarks. He had memorised much if not all of it, and undoubtedly endlessly rehearsed it. The implication that he'd merely scribbled down a longhand aide memoire of bullet points just before coming on stage is, to put it mildly, implausible. But it was spun as a virtually extempore presentation, and much of the media suspended their disbelief (the BBC's description of it last night as "unscripted" was absurd). Undoubtedly, it was a very impressive performance; but a performance it was. It was the theatre of sincerity, heavily contrived to look like it wasn't contrived.
Actually, the achievement, such as it was, is nothing spectacular. Seasoned Farage-watchers will know that he is quite capable of speaking at any length, ex tempore while, on the other hand, using the autocue is actually quite difficult – more so if you want to come over as "natural".

Once the adrenaline kicks in, speaking "off the cuff" is quite easy. A few years back, I was asked to give a lecture tour in Japan on BSE. On one morning, however, we had (or so I thought) a meeting with some local farmers' representatives.

On arrival, I was ushered into a small room, with about five or six people there but, on moving to sit down, I was told "no - no" ... this was the "welcoming committee". I was led through a door to the side of the room, which opened up into a huge lecture theatre, with at least 200 people there, TV cameras, media and the rest. Then it dawned that I was the "star" speaker, billed to speak for two hours. For two hours I spoke ... without notes. Big deal.

As to the speech, and the conference as a whole, the Speakout blog brings us back down to earth with a bump, suggesting that if Brown discovers that David Cameron's "modestly successful conference" has narrowed his 11 point lead in the polls, the instinctively cautious Brown will not hesitate to delay the election. He knows the adverse headlines will only last a day or two and then it will be back to politics as usual. Speakout continues:

... my guess is that Cameron's speech, and the Blackpool conference, will not produce a big "bounce" for the Tories and that Brown might well be tempted to go to the country in November. If he does, then all those eurosceptics who have been applauding Cameron's adoption of the EU referendum cause should have serious pause for thought – for, if the polls are right, Cameron will lose this election and with it the very chance we all hoped for of decoupling ourselves from the European Union will disappear as Brown will claim the victory is a vindication for his position. What then for eurosceptic Conservatives?
This is very much the position we articulated at the end of last month and now, as The Huntsman writes, "only the rhythmic swish, swish of cleaning brooms remains," we have to ask, on the morning after the night before, has anything really changed?

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