I am unable to describe this as a speech critique, since that title implies disinterest in the content. I have made it clear in the past that I chose to work on the skill of public speaking in the business rather than the political world as the latter’s oratorial requirements tend to fill me with contempt. While driving to catch a train I listened on the radio to some of Cameron’s speech, and I was relieved to arrive at my destination and have a good reason to switch it off. I have since forced myself to watch the whole thing.
At first I was puzzled at the wholesale joy with which the speech was greeted by even the most cynical and euro-sceptic members of the Conservative parliamentary party. My puzzlement was short-lived. Taken at its face-value the speech can be seen as undiluted triumph to any euro-sceptic. Any concern that remains hangs directly upon the Prime Minister’s credibility; and no parliamentary party member will publicly impugn his leader’s integrity except under circumstances far more immediately crisis-laden than this.
Nevertheless privately they will have spotted the plethora of weasel words. The nature of these critters is that they are tiny, thrown away, easily missed yet crucial. For instance at 2:55 he talks of the EU needing to “retain” the support of its peoples. Retaining something assumes that it currently has it. Does it? I don’t know, and neither does he or anyone else. The indications seem to be that it doesn’t. After all when France and the Netherlands held referenda on the European Constitution, both countries emphatically threw it out. The EU re-branded it as a ‘treaty’ and refused to ask them again. Blair and Brown tied themselves inside out, finding spurious arguments to avoid asking the British people, and I had the impression that similar pantomimes were being enacted in other countries also. The exception was Ireland whose own constitution insisted upon a referendum, and we all remember what happened there. The Irish voted ‘no’ and the same EU that always scorns referenda suddenly converted long enough to insist upon another. Assuming therefore, in defiance of available evidence, that the EU currently has the support of its peoples requires an Olympic leap of faith; yet with that tiny word “retain” Cameron did just that. Weasel!
At 3:45 Cameron describes the EU as “the anchor of freedom and democracy”. Democracy? See my previous paragraph, and then also factor in how they unseated the elected premiers of both Greece and Italy in favour of their own placemen. Weasel! That democratic deficit, 500 million European people being disenfranchised by a few hundred bureaucrats, is for me the strongest case against the EU. EU apologists never address it. Cameron, of course, even implied the opposite.
The above came in addition to the oft-repeated, preposterous assertion – encapsulated in the ridiculous Nobel Peace Prize this year – that the EU had anything to do with the peace that has reigned in Europe since 1945. Are they really claiming that, but for the Common Fisheries Policy, we’d all be gripped by an uncontrollable urge to invade Poland? When the EU’s devotees trot out this sort of demonstrable rubbish I find it very difficult to believe they are sincere, because I’d rather not believe that they are stupid.
At 5:10 he starts in on an analysis of the British national character. Do my ears deceive me or is he saying that being locked into the EU, which has raised protectionism to an art form, is indicative of Britain keeping its face open to the world? Weasel!
This is the vein in which this garbage continues to spew out.
With my rhetor hat on I cringe at the sort of florid catalogues to which his speech-writer has subjected him and us. At 4:20 is an example I can hardly bring myself to quote, but here goes, ” …from Caesar’s legions to the Napoleonic Wars, from the Reformation, the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution to the defeat of Nazism we have helped to write European History…” If I had included that in an essay at school it would have come back with a red line through it. Quite right too: it’s ghastly!
Also with my rhetor hat on, I have sadly to report that he resurrected that emetic device that appalled me at his 2011 Party conference speech. He periodically utters what he fondly believes to be purple passages straight to camera. That just oozes smarm! Watch him doing it, if you can bear, at 4:45. And it it is repeated often
The overall speech actually says nothing constructive. Though he does speak the dread words, “in/out referendum” the ifs, ans, and buts are so prolific that he has more escape routes than a black and white war-film. His record suggests that he’d use them too. I’d advise no one to hold their breath.
I have no political affiliation, rather disliking the party system – though understanding its practical advantages. I am old enough to have got the vote when ballot papers did not even include the party affiliations of candidates (I seem to remember it was not permitted till 1969). I am passionate about democracy, and I have watched the political class salami-slice it away. A referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, if it happens, will be a chance for the British demos to flex its muscles, rap the Establishment over its smug little knuckles and demand that they have the arguments put properly before them – rather than being palmed off with the bland assertions to which we have become accustomed. The gaping democratic deficit is probably enough to make me unswayable, but still I want a reason to open my mind enough for them to try.
I mentioned that Cameron’s speech has allowed him too much wriggle-room. Expect him, on his past record and that of the EU itself, to use it. But just suppose we do reach the day when a referendum actually gets officially put in the calendar. Stand by then for an acceleration of weasel. Cameron does here hark forward to that time. At 31:20 he actually attempts to equate leaving the EU with leaving NATO. How dare he! The one involves every detail of our lives being subject to the petty whims of unaccountable pen-pushers: the other concerns solemn mutual defence treaties between independent sovereign countries against third party aggression. They are not remotely equivalent, and he knows it. I say again, how dare he! It is that sort of thing that causes this speech to disgust me.
And there’s one further thing. At 37:00, in closing, he says that he will campaign to stay in “with all his heart and with all his soul”. What about all his whips? I wouldn’t put it past him.