With conference season almost upon us, there are many who will, in a Pavlovian response, break out in cold sweats.
The Milibands and Balls’ will all know that feeling. The constant redrafts, the search for jokes in late night hotel bars and the stale smell of curled up sandwiches and cold chips in the bedroom cum office!
Having to make the ‘speech of your life’ at every conference and convention necessitated all these things.
And with JP I along with, over the years, Gez Sagar, Tony Sophoclidies, Ian McKenzie and Mick Halloran, always had to improve on the last one, walking the tight rope between Nye Bevan and Les Dawson. Every conference closing speech has to be a ‘tub thumping barnstormer.’
Occasionally you would get a genuinely contribution from a punter. One year we got the best line ever from someone who left a message at the hotel reception:
Now those former SPADS to TB and GB have to go through the same hell AND deliver the speech too.
So for anyone who’s worked through the night to draft a speech - and it needn’t be for conference, it could be a best man’s speech or an address to your work colleagues – take a look at this.
What’s fascinating for me and helpful for everyone, is you can actually see what he ad libbed and deleted from his original text.
Never have the words ‘check against delivery’ meant so much!
There’s a reason for this.
Clinton peppers his speech with these moments to get the listener to refocus.
But he also humanises the text even further by making you think correctly that’s he’s speaking from the heart and not a TelePrompTer.
Just look at way he improves the line about Michelle Obama.
And he also has the swagger to pull it off, learnt from years of stump speeches and reading the crowd.
So the tips for making a great speech:
- Have a set speech text. It’s great to adlib but you need a structure otherwise you’ll ramble on and on. (Hello Clint!)
- Do your research. As Republican Vice Presidential Nominee Paul Ryan discovered you can make a great speech but if the facts don’t stack up, you get shot down
- Use humour but only when you want to make a point. A joke not grounded within the context of your speech’s key messages sticks out like a sort thumb
- Finally, and most importantly, you’re NOT making a speech. You’re talking to someone. Bill’s great skill is in spite of addressing thousands of people, you feel as if he’s talking just to you
So if you can, just spend 50 minutes watching the master at work.
VERY early start today. Went to conference centre to see the old man make his debut as Daybreak’s roving reporter at conference.
In his two-way with Adrian and Christine he answered about what next for David Miliband.
Then after a quick rest it was back in the conference hall to see DM’s speech. Who’d a thought a foreign affairs Q&A would start with a remarkable standing ovation.
But I think the media really missed the big message here. Just blogged about it over at Labour Uncut
Just a few minutes from Manchester and the most exciting conference in 16 years.
It’ll be my 25th conference (he started me young!) but I’ll always have a soft spot for MCR.
Yes, Blackpool has a faded charm and is on the way back up with the redevelopment of the beach front – they should have got that casino.
But Manchester Conference Centre is a brilliant venue. It’s also where I saw Tony Wilson’s Tenth Summer of Punk in 1986.
In one day at the GMEX, as it was then, I saw A Certain Ratio, The Fall, ex Velvet Undergrounder John Cale, Pete Shelly and Howard Devoto from the Buzzcocks.
But it’s the headliners which have resonance with today’s announcement in the same venue.
The first was New Order – well, whoever we choose today will represent that. A clean break with the old and the chance for a political rebirth.
The second was The Smiths, who came onto The Queen is Dead (insert your own joke here. They were a band that did well but ultimately split up amidst immense acrimony.
I hope today we’ll take our lead from the former not the latter!
Anyway, whichever Miliband gets it, I hope he has a chance to read my debut blog for Sion Simon’s excellent LabourUncut.
Labour’s a big job to do in getting its communications in order and hopefully I’ve given them a few ideas.
So after 40 hustings over 17 weeks, it’s nearly over.
I originally called back in May for as long as leadership contest as possible, especially after the last coronation and the election defeat
I’d probably say on balance it was still a good thing to have a four month debate to examine where we went wrong and where Labour goes next. But we’ve all been tested at times. Having watched most of the televised hustings, the same arguments and lines have been repeated ad infiniutm.
It’a a bit like sitting through your favourite film EVERY week and mouthing each line of dialogue.
However the big benefit of this contest is that the main candidates have actually learned how to campaign.
They’ve built teams from scratch, they’ve motivated volunteers and worked across the party and the country to win support from Facebook to face-to-face.
So we now have five senior politicians with very formidable cutting-edge campaign experience.
The challenge for them will be to unite behind a leader and turn their fire back on to the coalition.
It won’t be easy.
They’ve given up a third of a year to follow their dream, sacrificed their time with their families to traipse around the UK to attend house-meetings, CLPs and phone banks.
You can’t go through that, lose and then smile sweetly whilst platituding that the best man/woman run.
For most it’ll be very sore, raw and intially a bit hard to accept. It’ll be a campaign comedown.
But I predict this – losing won’t be that bad.
In fact, the runner-up will go on to become the darling of the party for years to come. And that’s a very powerful position to be in as the leader won’t be able to do a thing without explicitly bringing the loser and his supporters with him.
Because if there’s one thing the Labour party loves it’s the nearly guy. The fella who slogged his guts out, gave his all, only to fall short at the end.
Perhaps that’s why TB was viewed with suspicion. He was way too much of a winner for our liking!
So, yes, the new leader will have their day on September 25th. But the person who comes second will earn a title with much more affection and respect from the party.
That old chestnut of the best leader Labour NEVER had.
And the new leader had better hug him close - like a brother.
They call it Summer Watch – those five weeks between the House rising and the conference season. The time when the PM goes on holiday and the poor old Deputy stands in.
John always used to joke that two things would have happened after the end of his Summer Watch stints – the weather would be better and the polls improved!
Only this year, it’s the first summer since 1996 that we’ve been in opposition. This is normally a great opportunity for the party. But with an emergency budget on June 22 and the cuts becoming really tangible Sheffield Forgemasters et al this has all the makings of becoming a Summer, Autumn and Winter of Discontent.
It’s now a huge opportunity to highlight the damage the coalition is doing. (BTW, why isn’t their a crowdsourced ConDem cuts map yet. Could be very powerful.)
However, we’ve got 14 weeks of a Labour Leadership election ahead of us and 30 (count ‘em, 3-0!) hustings to go.
Now while hustings are all very good in getting to see what they think, it’s just as important to see what they’d do.
So let’s take them for a test drive.
Harriet deserves a holiday. Why not then allow each candidate to run the party for the week.
Let them devise the campaign strategy for the week, be the public face of Labour and run the party machine.
And whilst I prefer the electoral colleage as it is – paid members and affiliates – it’s vital we gague public opinion. So how about running an informal poll on the party website – promoted across all media platforms – on which candidate did they thought did the best job during their
week in charge.
Frankly it’s win-win for everyone. The candidates will get to show their leadership skills, the party gets five driven politicians keen to prove their worth during the quiet silly season and the public have a chance to input into our leadership contest.
So come on Harriet, let’s try before we buy.
Or if you’re a Miliband fan, perhaps you could buy one and get one free!
I’ve been spending the last few days getting over so-called ‘campaign flu.’ A mild condition of general fatigue and flu-iness that comes after weeks of poor diet, too many cigarettes and being stuck in the back of a Transit van for 5,000 miles.
So after Gordon left Downing Street for the last time, and shepherding John round the media to pay tribute to the great man, I retired to my bed and got some sleep. It’s advice I’d give to anyone involved in the campaign. Switch off your phone, take time out and get your thoughts together.
It’s quite clear from the Jock room banter of that Downing Steet Garden presser that the ‘ConDem Nation’ coalition isn’t going to fall apart anytime soon.
Firstly if they manage to get the 55% lock through, it’ll be nigh impossible to pass a no-confidence vote. Secondly Clegg and Huhne will respectively be in charge of pushing through real political reform and representing the UK at the next climate change conference in Cancun in December.
Finally, more than a third of Lib Dems MPs are actually in Government. Think about it. Over the course of five years, Clegg could easily rotate all of them so everyone gets the chance to get their backside on a chauffeur-driven Prius.
So let’s forget about an election this Autumn. It just isn’t going to happen. That scenario has been the one and only driver for a quick Labour leadership election culminating in July.
That’s probably the reason why David Miliband was first out of the blocks on Wednesday, in spite of the fact the news cycle was dominated by the Nick and Dave show. You only get one opportunity to launch and as other commentators have said, it seemed a bit strange arguing for the ‘movement for change’ outside the House of Commons surrounded by middle-aged parliamentarians (no offence to those who were there, but we’re talking about perception.)
I remember the last leadership campaign in 1994. Margaret Beckett launched hers in the Jubiliee Room in the House of Commons. She then left through one door and John’s team came in through the other, sat at the same desk and launched theirs too.
Tony wisely left it a couple of days and made telling his members and friends in Sedgefield the focus of his launch.
I also can’t imagine any candidate would be happy to have Charlie Falconer or John Hutton’s ‘black spot’ endorsement. Perhaps they personally felt it would help build the ‘big mo.’ I’m not so sure.
But launches aside, we shouldn’t get too obsessed with dancing to the media’s tune.
And this is where David is absolutely right – go off touring the country, talking to members, activists and the general public. But candidates shouldn’t rush this. Empty your mind of pre-conceived ideas and really listen to what people have to say. This is a real opportunity not a photo opportunity.
Time and time again, immigration was one of the the big issues that came up on the doorsteps, especially in the north. Labour – rightly or wrongly – is perceived to have handled the issue badly.
There’s not enough street politics in my mind. I’m sure more politicians would like to do as John did in the campaign – climb on a bench with a microphone and debate with the public. But they worry how one heckler can be enlarged through the prism of the media. If you do put yourself into real situations, hacks will say you were ‘booed by an angry mob.’ If you choose controllable situations, you’re ‘not meeting the public.’
But remember how ‘bigotgate’ had apparently destroyed Labour’s chances and finished us in Rochdale? We went there the following day and party activists had just come back from canvassing. Only a few people mentioned Duffy and the vote was standing up. Come election night, we won Rochdale back.
So let’s not rush this contest. Every member I’ve spoken to in the last few days wants an open and genuine leadership election, not defined and dictated by the 24 hour news cycle.
Whilst we can’t get away from the fact that there will be televised debates (we had them for the last deputy leadership election and they are popular) we mustn’t let X Factor politics shape this debate.
Miliband v Miliband is admittedly a great human intertest story. But we shouldn’t allow the media to make it dominate it – we all want policies not personalities.
We also need as many candidates as possible and I really hope some of our talented female MPs put their names forward too. We don’t need to be told there’s an ‘inevitability’ as to who will be chosen. That’s our job.
A four month campaign, with national, regional, union, Young Labour and online hustings will give everyone a chance to road test manifestos, scrutinise the candidates and challenge them directly face-to-face and through social media platforms.
All the while, candidates will still need to play their part in holding the executive to account, especially since we are now the only real substantive opposition on the green benches. That too will showcase their ability.
Hopefully the NEC will agree next Tuesday to a longer timetable and we can unveil the leader at our Manchester conference.
Personally, I’d like to hear the candidates’ thoughts on how we can rebuild a mass-membership party, give members a more direct say in policymaking and how we improve organisation in constituency parties. Too many seats were lost because of poor planning by local Labour parties.
16 years on from the last leadership election and the same principle argued then is as relevant today – the politics of organisation are equally as important as the politics of ideas.
So by all means put on your trainers, limber up and do your stretches.
But let’s have marathon not a sprint.
Members will decide this election.
Not the media.