16 April 2010

Did the TV debaters tell too many stories?

As I suspected, I found the first TV debate as stilted, boring and uninspiring as I'd feared it would be.

Nor, however historic it may have been, did the continuous wall-to-wall media hype before and afterwards persuade me that the transfer of political coverage from traditional election rallies into television studios will ever generate much excitement or enthusiasm for politics among the wider public.

But, from an observer's point of view, there was rather more meat there than I'd anticipated.

So this is what I hope will be (time permitting) the first in a series of posts about the debate(s) - unless, of course, any of them distract me by taking to the stump and making proper speeches at proper rallies.

The power of stories?
I've never come across any presentation skills researcher, writer or trainer who doesn't recommend stories as an effective way for speakers to get their points across.

So, perhaps not surprisingly, all three leaders came armed with collections of anecdotes that could be trotted out at suitable points in the proceedings.

But the question is whether I'm alone in thinking that they overdid it.

After the first one or two, I found myself groaning and thinking "Oh no - not another attempt to show how in touch you are with ordinary people around the country."

In case you didn't notice them, here's a selection by way of a reminder. I'd be curious to know whether anyone else thought there were too many. Or was the bronze medal awarded to Brown by the instant pollsters partly a result of the fact that he had fewer stories up his sleeve than the other two?


"I was in a hospital, a paediatric hospital in Cardiff a few months ago, treating very sick premature young babies. I was being shown around and there were a large number of babies needing to be treated. There was a ward standing completely empty, though it had the latest equipment. I said to the ward sister "What's going on? Why are there no babies being treated?" She said "New rules mean we can't employ any doctors from outside the European Union with the skills needed". That's an example of where the rules are stopping good immigration which actually helps our public services to work properly."

"I met a young man in London the other day. His flat had been burgled five times, and one of them, would you believe it, Jacqueline, was when he was away at his father's funeral. He said to me "Why can't this stop?"

"I was in a factory in my own city where I'm an MP in Sheffield just a few weeks ago. There was a great British company there, a manufacturing company, that produces great metal braces with these huge rollers, which apparently are sold to the American army. They attach them onto their vehicles, and when the rollers move over mines, the mines blow up, but of course, they destroy the rollers and not the soldiers. The American army says that those rollers, diesigned, manufactured by a great British business in Sheffield, have saved 140 lives. Why is it they're not being used by the British army?"


"I went to Crosby the other day and I was talking to a woman there who had been burgled by someone who had just left prison. He stole everything in her house. As he left, he set fire to the sofa and her son died from the fumes. That burglar, that murderer, could be out of prison in just four-and-a-half years. The system doesn't work, but that sort of sentence is, I think, just completely unacceptable in terms of what the public expect for proper punishment."

"I went to a Hull police station the other day. They had five different police cars, and they were just about to buy a £73,000 Lexus. There's money that could be saved to get the police on the frontline."

"I have a man in my constituency called Clive Stone who had kidney cancer who came to see me with seven others. Tragically, two of them have died because they couldn't get the drug Sutent that they wanted, that was on the market, that people knew was a good drug. That's a scandal in our country today."

"My mother was a magistrate in Newbury for 30 years. She sat on the bench, and she did use those short prison sentences that you're talking about. I've got to tell you, when someone smashes up the bus stop, when someone repeatedly breaks the law, when someone's found fighting on a Friday or Saturday night, as a magistrate, you've got to have that power for a short prison sentence when you've tried the other."


"When I was young, my father ran a youth club with my brother for young people, and the more people who do voluntary service and give their time in the community to getting young people off the streets doing purposeful activity, the better, whether it's sports, dancing or music or other activities that get people off the streets."

"I had a lady write to me who said that she would not be alive today if we hadn't introduced screening and we hadn't given the chance to see a specialist in two weeks."

1 comment:

Brian Jenner said...

It wasn't the excess of stories, it was the fact that they were not carefully crafted to reflect the principles of the parties. Norman Tebbit's speech about his father getting on his bike and looking for work reflected a core (albeit rather unpalatable) belief of Tory politics: action is the root of salvation. What the Tories need to be looking for is stories that describe how Government has spent money on initiatives that do not achieve anything, with money we don't have. Individuals doing pointless jobs don't get much job satisfaction, and it's a blessing to set them free to do something else. Otherwise we may as well be Communists.

You have to have a core narrative with principles to tell compelling stories.