A few months later, I realised that I'd been mistaken in thinking that David Cameron was having problems reading from screens - as it turned out that he wasn't using an Autocue or any other form of teleprompter at that time (HERE).
Cameron follows Thatcher down the same hill
But yesterday Mr Cameron had not only taken to using a teleprompter for his leader's speech, but was also encountering the same kinds of difficulties that diminished Mrs Thatcher's effectiveness all those years ago.
When using a script on a lectern, she would return her eyes to the text, clear her throat and close her mouth after making an applaudable point, leaving no one in any doubt that the time had come for them to get their hands apart. But, when reading from teleprompter screens, her head stayed up gazing into space, with the result that her applause rate fell dramatically (video examples HERE)
And there were some rather long sections in Mr Cameron's speech yesterday where the lack of applause was noticeably absent
Here you can see see two examples of him falling into the same trap as Mrs Thatcher . In both cases, he sets up what's coming as an applaudable point. But in both cases, nothing happens for so long (2-3 seconds) that he's already carried on again by the time it finally does - at which point he has to break off.
Also in both cases he seems to acknowledge the glitch with a slight nod, indicating, perhaps: "yes, it is your turn and you should jolly well have started a bit sooner than that"?.
Given that Cameron is more effective than most of his contemporaries at speaking from scripts on a lectern, I'd advise him to ditch the teleprompter forthwith.
Or, if his aides have cooked up some reason that's convinced him it's a good idea, they should also convince him that he's going to need a lot more practice if he's to get anywhere near his effectiveness with old-fashioned scripts (or, for that matter, with no script at all, as in the 10 minute speech that clinched the leadership for him at the beauty parade in 2005).
Conference season 2011 blogging update:
- Party conference season PowerPoint prize competition
- Politicians and broadcasters in the UK: collaboration or capitulation?
- Clegg's conference speech: 1 plus & 2 minuses
- A comic analysis of Nick Clegg's rhetorical questions
- Ed Balls surfs applause - but don't expect to see it on primetime TV news
- Andrew Neil plays snakes & ladders with Ed Balls before picking up a scalpel
- Stand-up comedy from Ed Miliband
- Why did some Labour members boo & clap when Miliband mentioned tony Blair?
- Did the BBC change its mind on publicising the snake Miliband landed on yesterday?
- Are Labour's leading women better speakers than Labour's leading men?
- The snake (interview) that did for Nixon's reputation & the ladder (speech) that had saved it