A few months ago I was sent this maiden speech by the UK parliament’s youngest elected member. Whether one likes the views expressed is one thing, but the speaker is eloquent, not glib, not facile, and has a sharp internal sense of rhythm and how to use words to convey meaning with emotion. It is an achievement for any public speaker, in one this young it ought to be a source of pride

It made me wistful because in the antipodean parliament there are none so able with words; indeed, it might be said that as a group they are awkwardly incapable of using the prime tool of the job. There are some who are slightly more capable but they do not sparkle; not even approaching the qualities of the example above.

In the place of syntax and ideas, are catchphrases, slogans, management jargon and the prosaic banalities of mediocrity. On the occasions when they do take lopsided flight the elected members tend to fall back on the habits of adolescence: jeers, insults, and extended, and very distraught similes that are perfectly plain before the speaker has finished uttering them.

There are many mistakes, which is to be expected, with the talent on show, but there are no peculiar statements to wake us from their commonplaces, no visions of humans being able to live with fish – peacefully, (not to fish as they lost that one years ago) or equivalent. It is unremittingly dull.

Speech does not delight, words do not entrance us; they have not tutor nor aspiration.

All of these manifold deficits may be attributable to the axiom that a country’s politicians reflect itself. If this is true, the inferences are not gratifying. Rhetoric is distrusted, unlearnt, and unmastered, for it might seduce us into doing things we later regret. We prefer unadorned syllables in simple sentences. They are punched in, at least twice, to make sure the message is inside our heads for a few hours.

It is a loss.

©Copyright Guy Cranswick 2015. All Rights Reserved.


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