24 June 2009

'Check against delivery'

Charles Crawford has a very interesting post today about David Miliband’s speech in Poland that's prompted me to try something I’ve never done before.

I’ve seen plenty of speeches (and have even penned a few) that started with the instruction ‘Check against delivery’ in the first line, but had never bothered to do so in any detail. Thanks to the wonders of the internet and YouTube, it's now become something that's easier to do than ever before.

What's more, you can go beyond checking against the speaker's delivery and check against what anyone else might saying about a particular speech.

So, whilst checking the press release of Miliband’s speech against his delivery, I was able to see exactly what Charles Crawford meant about the opening passages being "clunky. An attempt by a speech-writer who knows little of Poland to rummage around and find a few historical examples by way of 'filler'. The examples used cast no light of insight on what follows, and might as well have been omitted…"

Mr Miliband too seems to have found them 'a bit clunky', or presumably wouldn't have felt himself prompted to ad-lib so many changes as he went along.

It’s as if, having declared himself "deeply conscious of the history between our two countries", he realised that he hadn’t until that moment been in the least bit conscious of King Canute’s Polish ancestry (and one has to wonder if the Poles in the audience were any more conscious than him about King Canute's genealogy).

Then, with his quip about the speech becoming "pronunciation test", he openly confesses that he’s just reading out stuff that's news to him (supplied by the local ambassador and/or his staff).

You can read the whole speech HERE and check against delivery HERE.

The parts of the speech in red below were what was actually delivered and did not appear in the official press release.

Mr MILIBAND:
"I think for obvious reasons any visiting British Foreign Secretary coming to Poland is deeply conscious of the history between our two countries.

"It goes back a long way.
I didn’t know that Canute er- was the half Polish King of Denmark who, in 1015, actually invaded England, bringing with him Polish soldiers and his mother, Princess Swietoslawa, who er- is buried -is buried - Winchester castle.

"When I asked for a historical lesson from our ambassador, I didn’t realise it would be a pronunciation test, but it has become such."

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