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Rhetorically speaking…
Speechwriters Blog on Speechwriting


Phenomenal speech by Cameron just now. Highly redolent of Blair in 96.

The most powerful line of the speech for me was ’stop treating children like adults and adults like children.’ A instant classic phrase reversal. Like JFK’s ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.’ Or Mandy Rhys-Davies’ ‘He would, wouldn’t he!’

But the most powerful parts of the speech were for me the sections on character (or ethos, as Aristotle put it), particularly when he spoke about his son. This took enormous courage.

A very minor point, but did he really walk off the stage to a song by EMF, also known as Ecstasy Mother Fuckers?

Posted by Simon Lancaster on October 8th, 2009 :: Filed under Random
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Introducing the rule of four…?

Rhetoricians often rave about the magical rule of three, known as tricolon. This is when soundbites are built up on three individual parts, eg “Education Education Education” or “I came, I saw, I conquered.” or “This, that and the other.” The effect produced is one of completeness and finality. It appears to wrap up an argument and close off alternatives.

But, in his speech to Birmingham Chamber of Commerce last Friday, David Cameron seemed to be toying with a new “rule of four”. The main rhetorical flourishes at both ends of the speech were in fours.

At the beginning: ”Orders are down. Sales have slumped. Import costs are rising. Credit has dried up.

Ar the end: “We’ll get through: stronger, better, richer and fairer.”

The main argument of the speech was also a four: ”Tackling debt. Rebalancing our economy. Getting people back into work. Regulating our economy properly. If we do all these things, we can confront - and will overcome - the fundamental weaknesses of our economy.

Both of these sections sound a bit peculiar to me. Slightly off-beat: like Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five”, the bar goes on just slightly longer than expected.

One of the cardinal rules of using rhetoric is not to be caught using rhetoric. And the rule of three can sometimes sound a little tired and obvious, it has been devalued and diminished through over-use. By spurning this old rule, Cameron may be reinforcing this idea that he is a new kind of politician with a new kind of political language.

Posted by Simon Lancaster on March 16th, 2009 :: Filed under Politics, Soundbites
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