It is part of the UK’s political tradition, that outgoing and incoming Prime Ministers give respectively a farewell speech and an inaugural speech. Let’s have a look at Boris Johnson’s speech delivered yesterday on the steps on 10 Downing Street.
The likely anticipated purpose of this speech, was to inspire the British people to look forward to Boris Johnson’s leadership as PM. This is obvious based on elements of the speech’s content. Firstly, the word “we” is used 40 times, which is almost ~2.5% of the speech’s word count. Secondly, there are strong appeals to patriotism and the “awesome foursome that are incarnated in that red, white, and blue flag”. There’s even a rhetorical device to add emphasis that the country’s best days are ahead, and that “doubters, doomsters, gloomsters” are wrong. Thirdly, is there is a direct appeal to the British people itself using “you” towards the middle of the speech. This is accentuated by repeating “My job is …” followed by for example, “to make your streets safer” etc.
Overall, the purpose is clear but as we’ll see later on, this purpose is not well supported by the content and delivery.
The delivery is very forceful and even aggressive at times. The lectern is even banged when Boris speaks about opportunity for all regardless of race or sexual orientation. Boris only makes eye contact with the audience half of the times. When he does seek to make eye contact, the looks are mostly spread towards the middle of the audience where TV cameras sit. His passion for the country shows through towards the end. The pace of speaking is very fast at ~150 words/minute.
Overall the delivery of the speech comes across as slightly aggressive and bombastic at times. For an inspiring speech, a powerful delivery is a must-have. There is however a fine line between powerful and aggressive. Unfortunately, Boris Johnson crosses this line a few times here. For the purpose to be met, a slower delivery would have enabled him to project more gravitas. Adding some of the humour he is famous for would also have helped build a better rapport with the intended audience. Boris Johnson came across as a Prime Minister in a hurry so far and the delivery adds to this perception.
In my opinion, this is a speech that has a lot of potential for further improvement. But as far as a first impression goes, the speech feels as if it is aimed at a Conservative-leaning audience rather than at the British people as a whole. The numerous references to Brexit, free-enterprise and British unionism; will by their nature appeal more to Conservatives than to the electorate as a whole. This is a victory speech to the followers and not a uniting speech for the nation as a whole. This aspect is especially apparent in the delivery. Yet, even as a victory speech, adding more stories would have made it better still.
I won’t comment on the political aspects themselves. However, anther thing that stands out is that the speech is weak on facts and proposals. Other than free-ports and removing gene-modification restrictions, the address is short on specifics. Unlike JFK’s speech that we looked at yesterday, this speech is unlikely to stand the test of time as a memorable speech.
Boris if you want some tips the next time you’ll speak just get in touch ?.