Friday 12 April 2013

Why Ed Miliband's speech worked

Those, like me, who work helping people communicate better will have enjoyed the brilliant speeches delivered this week in memory and appreciation of Margaret Thatcher. Most have relied on personal anecdotes to make a point. This has made them warm speeches, easy to listen to and appreciate. Ed Miliband arguably had the hardest of the speeches to write and deliver this week which is why I believe he deserves praise.

Two and a bit years ago I wrote this blog as analysis of Ed Miliband's first speech as Labour Party leader. In summary I thought it rather poor. Time moves on and, I imagine, so has Miliband's speech writing team from September 2010.

His speech on Wednesday to the House of Commons is worth reading in full here  or you can see it delivered via the Guido Fawkes website here. It reads better than it was delivered as Miliband still needs help with that part of his communication but overall a very good speech.

But why? First it made an argument taking the listener through this argument step by step. This is something ignored all too freely in modern political speeches in a rush for a soundbite. The best speeches aren't afraid to set out an argument with care, treating the listener as an adult, before reaching a conclusion. Ed Miliband achieved this on Wednesday which allowed him to be critical of Margaret Thatcher without being insensitive. 

He also used quotes very well to help develop or illustrate a point. To outline that he disagreed with a lot of what she did he quoted her line, "Politics is more when you have convictions than a matter of multiple manoeuvrings to get you through the problems of the day."

Miliband also used some tried and tested methods of the best speech-writers such as the echo, alliteration and metaphor.  

I liked this passage very much with the word "woman" ringing out as an echo helping to underscore Miliband's generous point: 

"At each stage of her life, she broke the mould. A woman at Oxford when there was not a single woman in the university who held a full professorship. A woman chemist when most people assumed scientists had to be men. A woman candidate for parliament in 1950, against the opposition of some in her local party in Dartford, at the age of only 24. A woman MP in 1959 when just 4% of MPs in the whole of this House were women. The only woman in the cabinet when she was appointed in 1970. And, of course, the first woman prime minister."

Alliteration was missing from Miliband's earlier speeches but I've noticed he has begun to use it as a tool to grab his listeners more and more for example of Wednesday he said simply but effectively "In mining areas, like the one I represent, communities felt angry and abandoned."  

Finally he quoted Thatcher's use of a brilliant metaphor about democracy: "Consensus doesn't give you any direction. It is like mixing all the constituent ingredients together and not coming out with a cake...democracy is about the people being given a choice." 

It was a thoughtful, well crafted speech which made an argument with care and I believe deserves praise because of this. 

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