During the last 20 minutes of David Cameron's conference speech this week, his hit rate was one burst of applause every eighteen sentences - a paltry one sixth of that achieved by his illustrious predecessor.
What's more, the more he talked about 'the big society', the more the applause rate fell. In the penultimate 10 minutes of the speech where he starts to move on to the subject (excerpt 1 below), the average applause rate was once every ten sentences.
Then, in the final 10 minutes when he really gets into it (excerpt 2 below), the rate went down to once every thirty sentences - one tenth of that for Mrs Thatcher in her prime.
Why such a muted response?
Closer inspection might reveal that part of the low applause rate could be explained by the fact that Cameron's delivery was more rushed than usual - and therefore didn't leave enough slots for the audience to come in. But that wouldn't account for more than a tiny fraction of the absences.
So, if the Conservative leadership's idea of the 'big society' is supposed to assert brand differentiation from Thatcher's 'no such thing as society', it's difficult not to conclude that their activists in the hall were neither impressed nor convinced by the concept.
But they, of course, may not have been the primary audience that he's trying to bring on board.
Excerpt 1: Penultimate 10 minutes
Excerpt 2: Final 10 minutes
Other posts on the 2010 party conference season:
- Delayed applause at a key point in Nick Clegg's conference speech
- Party conference season prize competition
- Delayed applause in Vince Cable's speech (at same point as in Clegg's)
- More lessons from Vince Cable's speech
- Labour Party leaders' acceptance speeches" Neil Kinnock, 1983; Ed Miliband, 2010
- Ed Miliband "gets it" in his bid to bond with the brethren
- Did David Miliband lose because he was too old and experienced?
- Delayed applause for Ed Miliband's claims on the 'centre ground'
- 'Clap on the name': a practical tip for Ed Miliband and/or his speechwriters
- Delayed applause for William Hague's boast about being in government
- What a peculiar Tory backdrop, Part 2: What do the flags mean?
- Tories 'Bomb Middle England' - by Banksy
- Delayed applause, poor speech writing & delivery strike again in Osborne's speech
- Delayed applause for Cameron's government - from the Conservatives!