In November 2014, on the day that the United Kingdom Independence Party in the guise of Mark Reckless was easily gaining a parliamentary seat in a by-election at Rochester & Strood, The Cambridge Union was holding a debate under the motion –
This House Believes UKIP has been Good for British Politics
The debate was opened by Patrick O’Flynn for the proposition. He was followed by Rupert Myers for the opposition. In this video Myers begins at 13:30 and finishes at 24:55.
Myers opens with a harmless little stunt involving sipping from a glass of beer – “This is to demonstrate that I understand UKIP”. A member of the audience points out that for it to represent UKIP it should be bitter not rather insipid-looking lager. Myers’ rejoinder is along the lines of, “if you want to be bitter, wait till after the debate”. Not brilliant but quick, and the audience enjoys it. He is personable, and good with his audience.
Thereafter he buries himself in his script and my heart sinks. He is a talking head. He is a barrister, a man who earns his living speaking in Court, yet gives every impression that he’d want the support of a script before giving you his date of birth.
Ye gods man, get a grip! Lift your face and simply speak! It really isn’t so sophisticated a process, and you will find that what emerges is a lot more engaging and compelling than this tedious regurgitation of something you thought of earlier.
There are a few reasons and occasions that compel a speaker to use a script. One such is a need to fit a very precise time slot. These debate time slots are not very precise: you have ten minutes, but do not have to use it all, and can get away with over-running a little. This is a big and forgiving target which he contrives to miss. Myers gets repeatedly warned about over-running and still adds 15% to his allotted time. Furthermore his warnings make him gabble ridiculously. So having a script fails him for that too.
And that is really all I have to say about the delivery of this offering.
As to the content, I’d rather not comment because in a debate it is the other side’s job to do that. I am not only critiquing these speeches one at a time I am deliberately only watching them individually. At this stage I have no idea what is coming next from the proposition, but there could be straw on the carpet.