Do conference speeches really matter?

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aAccording to some new research, voters think Sir Keir Starmer was more competent, in touch and agreeable than Boris Johnson in his convention speech, which was, by his short and by most accounts, witty speech. Opinium’s pollsters highlight 1,305 voters from two performances as if they were contestants X Factor. The results were mixed, shall we say. The researchers found that more voters agreed with Johnson than disagreed and felt more that he was not strong, caring, and capable.

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But politics is a competitive game, and he needed to shadow his opponent, and here the prime minister was less successful. His scores were less favorable than Starmer’s speech in Brighton, even though the Labor leader was continually harassed, while Johnson was interrupted only by giggles of “Jon Bon Gove” among many others at a Trump-style rally.

Should anyone take notice? Do speeches matter? It’s the sad journalist’s way of simply dismissing them as so much candyfloss, useful source material, badly written and clumsily promoted at worst. Most of them are, in fact, but, even with only British contributions remaining and barring the likes of Hitler or Martin Luther King, it is clear that a skilled orator can inspire a nation. Winston Churchill, therefore historians agree, at least saw good with his wartime addresses to the Commons and the nation, while the tide against Hitler damaged Germany’s morale as he disappeared from the air.


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