On 2 October 2015, in Guildford, England, there was a cross-party conference entitled Time to Leave? There were three speakers, Diane James from UKIP, Daniel Hannan from the Conservative Party, and Brendan Chilton, Director of Labour for Britain.
For a long time I have been yearning for Britain to have a referendum on its membership of the European Union. This was only partially for the referendum itself. What I really wanted was the attendant grown-up debate on the issues involved. Pro-EU people always seem to churn out the same, lame, ingenuous nonsense, and I have assumed that they were saving the real arguments for when it mattered. The trouble is that time ticks on, and I am still waiting.
Meanwhile I am pleased to listen to what a eurosceptic member of the Labour Party has to say. Everyone knows, because the BBC has told them, that only ultra-right-wing people are opposed to the EU – something that must have puzzled Tony Benn.
Chilton is introduced by Daniel Hannan – introduced rather well, actually. Short and to the point, with no messing about. If that man keeps at it he could be rather a good speaker one day.
Good opening. Though euroscepticism observes no party boundaries you can see on the projected slide that this meeting is hosted by the European Conservative and Reformist Group, so Chilton is speaking to an audience that will not share many of his political views. By humorously flagging up the point he puts the audience at its ease. He engages with it from the beginning and keeps it with him.
He’s good. Some might argue that he’s speaking a little too quickly, but I find it indicative of only the passion and sincerity behind what he is saying. No coherence is lost, and we get swept up in his arguments.
The arguments are made in broad brush-strokes. This is something I bang on about with my trainees. When you are writing an opinion-piece, and some of the detail is so fine and complicated that it needs a second look, your reader can always go back. When you are speaking your audience cannot do that: you have to shape your arguments in such a way that they are made clearly in one telling. That means broad brush-strokes, even for bright audiences.
The projected slide to which I referred earlier is still there at the end. Chilton does his own speaking. He doesn’t seek the imagined assistance of intrusive pictures. He’s good!
His closing points are very telling indeed, and excellently expressed. I have nothing to add.