Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Amateur's night out

STYLE STATEMENT FOR CASUAL VISITORS (occasioned by reader feedback): Gushing with praise is not British. Frankly, it's embarrassing. We deliver it differently. Like this:

So Daniel Hannan made a speech in the EU parliament. This one cannot avoid knowing as the inbox is full of laudatory comments and links to his You-Tube video (5,712 views), plus his blog.

As to his media coverage, there are eight links on Google News which include Gordon Brown and himself. One is his own blog and one is a BBC report that does not mention the speech. Then there are EU parliament press releases in two languages and four other foreign language reports. Google Gordon Brown, though, and you get 30,662. I make that a win to Gordon by 1 to 3,800.

That is the reality of the EU parliament. In my time, I wrote dozens of speeches for my mepps, maybe hundreds. Some were bloody good, some also-ran and some downright boring. My finest hour was a storming speech on the reform of the comitology procedures, which even got some compliments from hard europhile Tories. There's glory for you. As regards the media though, it didn't matter what was said. It was always ignored.

In the end, there became only one measure of a "good" speech. You were allocated a time – could be 90 seconds, perhaps two minutes or, if you were really "lucky" you got three minutes. The game was to write a speech which came in to the second. You had to judge your mepp's speaking rate, write accordingly and train him hard. If he didn't perform and came in over or under time, you lost points - more penalties for being "chicken" and running short.

I pulled it off once, to the very second, with the delicious victory made all the more sweet by being witnessed by Matthew Engel of The Guardian, who recorded my delight in his piece. Those were the days!

As for Hannan – he over-ran by a whole 14 seconds on his three minute slot. His problem was that the speech ran to 533 words. He should have trimmed it to 450 and cut his cadence to 150 words per minute. Content wasn't too bad, though, and a nice payoff line – but hey! Fourteen seconds is fourteen seconds! Amateur's night out!