And so there was. According to Lord Lexden, a paragraph or two was used at the conference of the Welsh Conservatives. And I still remember the incredulous joy with which I learned that the peroration, including the quotation by Oliver Cromwell, had been inflicted on the Conservative Women's Conference.
We must look to America for a living tradition of platform oratory. The great public meetings at which the presidential contenders perform can make a poor impression when all one sees of them is a short clip on the television news. The candidate generally appears to be surrounded by a group of grown men and women who are screaming like over-excited five-year-olds.
But during the 2008 presidential campaign I was lucky enough to go to about a dozen of these meetings. The delightful thing about them was that although the candidate was surrounded by the faithful, on the edge of a meeting you would find Americans who had just come along to see how the candidate looked and sounded. The direct link with the public had not been broken. Amid all the money and the razzmatazz, the best speaker came through.
One cannot pretend that great orators — Lord Rosebery, Barack Obama, George Galloway — necessarily make great statesmen. But anyone who aspires to lead a democracy ought to be able to explain to the demos what he or she is about. A prime minister or president is an advocate not only in his or her own cause, but in the nation's cause. The quality of his or her advocacy matters.
As I write this paragraph, I am listening to Bill Clinton's speech to this year's Democratic Convention. It is 50 minutes long, and according to the Washington Post was watched on television by more people than saw the National Football League's season kick-off game between the Giants and the Cowboys. I am listening it to it on YouTube, a few days after it was delivered. Clinton has never been my cup of tea, but his speech was said to have gone down extraordinarily well and I wanted to hear it for myself. There is no memorable soundbite in the speech: to gain a satisfactory impression of how lucid, powerful and uncondescending it was, you need to listen to the whole thing. And that is the point: we want to hear these people for ourselves, and in full, rather than rely on second-hand accounts punctuated by snippets and soundbites. The technology exists for us to do so. British politicians have not yet realised this, but the future belongs to orators.
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