Yesterday, I was struck by a line in an interview with Ed Miliband by Nicky Campbell on Radio 5 live (partly transcribed HERE), in which he said something that seemed a bit short in the precise and decisive departments:
"I think I can fairly sort of certainly say to you now, Nicky, that's unlikely to be the biggest priority for the country."
Part of that interview was trailing the speech he was going to make today at Labour's National Policy Forum (transcript HERE). So stand by, I thought, for a bit more precision and clarity in his first major speech since paternity leave.
A seasoned reporter has trouble following him
Just after Mr Miliband had started speaking, I noticed that Sky News reporter Alistair Bunkall (@AliBunkall) had suddenly got busy on Twitter whilst listening to the speech - with a series of tweets that included the following:
- Miliband speaking without notes. Multiple accusations that govt is arrogant.
- Miliband. There are 5 things we (Labour) need to do.
- 1. "Need to reconnect. Talk to people" Must be one of the most over-used phrases.
- 2. Need to give a voice to Labour Party members. Will help create better policy.
- Finally a spot of clapping. Thought the audience might have dropped off..
- Sorry, lost track, I can't count. Apparently must-do number 2 is the need to change the economy.
- Miliband: "We have to under-promise and over-deliver." Is that a subtle address to the criticisms of lack of substance?
- Miliband jokes about Cameron going 2 arctic with huskies early in his leadership. But it got Cameron headlines & Miliband needs some of that.
- Summary: Miliband wants Lab Party to reform and focus on economy, climate change and liberties. Party must hold conversation with voters.
I was intrigued that a professional television news reporter was losing track of the five-part structure Miliband had announced and didn't include all of them in his summary. Maybe the structure would be easier when reading rather than listening - so I turned to the transcript (HERE).
Clearer for readers than listeners?
But the written version also seemed to be a bit lacking in the precision department - and actually sounds, at least to this reader, rather rambling and incoherent as you're reading through it. Keeping track of the five-part structure announced at the start is quite hard work and involves having to re-read some of the segments to check whether he's on to a new point or still on the previous one.
As you'll see from the following outline of the structure as it unfolds, things really start to go astray after the 4th one starts with a "But". And is the "one other thing" the fifth or an extra one that he's added to the fifth?
"So I want to talk to you about the five things that I think we need to do....
"First of all we have to be a party rooted in people’s lives....
"Secondly we have to change our economy and we have to understand how we need to change our economy....
"Thirdly we need to change our approach not just to markets, but to government as well....
"But fourth we also need to think about not just the relationship of the individual to the market and the relationship of the individual to government but also the thing that probably matters most to all of us in this room, the relationships between individuals....
"There’s, one other thing which is the way we do our politics....
(Miliband's summary of the 5 points)
"We’ve got to change in terms of the way we are rooted in people’s lives, and you are essential to making that happen. We have to change in the way we think about our economy, the way we think about government, the way we think about community and indeed in the way we think about politics too."
Two tips for Mr Miliband
- Stop trying to copy the walkabout 'script-free' style of speaking that played such an important part in David Cameron's surprise victory in the Tory leadership beauty parade. The PM is pretty good at it, but most politicians are not (on which, see also HERE, HERE & HERE).
- Do some homework on how to structure a speech so that your audience will find it easy to follow, on which Chapter 9 of my book Lend Me Your Ears: All You Need to Know about Making Speeches and Presentations might be as good (and cheap) a place to start as any.