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Rhetorically speaking…
Speechwriters Blog on Speechwriting

Everything Alright, Darling?

For the last thirteen years, Alastair Darling has tested to the limit Harold Wilson’s aphorism that, ‘The power to bore is one of the most powerful weapons in the politician’s arsenal.’

His speeches have ranked amongst Whitehall’s dullest - lacking stories, soundbites, imagery or argument. But this style enabled Darling to defuse some gargantuan political issues - from rural post office closures to the pensions crisis - sending even the most furious campaigner into a deep slumber.

So it is extraordinary that he has chosen this moment to come out with his first colourful phrase, telling Jeff Randall  that Brown unleashed the ‘forces of hell’ against him.

It’s extraordinary on at least four counts.

1.  Choice of Metaphor. He has used the heaven and hell metaphor, traditionally only used at times of war (for other egs, see Pope Urban II in the Crusades, Ronald Reagan’s ‘Evil Empire’ speech and George W Bush’s second inaugural.

2.   Turn of phrase. Instead of running the metaphor to excess, he’s kept it at just three awesome words - just enough to create a powerful image but short enough to stick.

3.   Timing. He’s unleashed this just weeks before the General Election will be called.

4.   Aim. He’s fired it at the man that will lead his party into that election - his neighbour, political ally and ‘friend,’ Gordon Brown.

It’s an extraordinary thing for the normally careful and cautious Darling to say. At another time, this could have been a Geoffrey Howe moment. But it seems that no-one can even be bothered to respond. Labour’s 1983 defeat was blamed on the longest suicide note in history. I wonder if the 2010 election will go down as the largest suicide pact in history?


Posted by Simon Lancaster on February 24th, 2010 :: Filed under Random
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