Tuesday, February 22, 2005

How politicians speak

Today's Daily Telegraph carries an interesting piece by ex-Prime Minister John Major. This is a strong condemnation of "New Labour" and its tactics. Major blames the man at the top, Tony Blair, for much of the decay in the political process and notes that voter turnout in the UK's next election could be lower than in Iraq's recent election.

Last evening I was listening (on KCRW) to George Bush's speech in Brussels and I could not help but remember an observation made by a learned medical friend a couple of years ago that Bush has a problem speaking long sentences. It's not that he's stupid (he has an excellent education record) it's that he has to pause after so many words. No doubt his speech writers cater to this.

Tony Blair has a somewhat similar oratorial style to Bush - only he likes to omit verbs from sentences. One example of a Blair sentence: "The kids, the future of our nation". Again, short phrases (can't call this a sentence!) seem to be the order of the day.

Why? Well, apart from the possibility that these styles are inherent, it seems to me that the speech writers are on to something. Short phrases, soundbites. World peace, around the corner. Must work together. Basically they're ready made headlines. Which says a lot for journalism, doesn't it!