On 11 December, 2015, at Southampton University, Daniel Hannan hosted one of his Britain and the EU – Time to Leave? conferences. One of the speakers was Kate Hoey.
Is she adjusting her bra strap while acknowledging the greeting applause? I neither know nor care, but as a piece of body language it is a beauty. It kicks away any thoughts the onlooker may have harboured that this is just another posturing politician. Such personal fidgeting doesn’t fit with posturing. It conveys the message that she proposes to speak with us not at us.
I am of a similar age to her, and when I began teaching public speaking there was still some demand for formal oratory. Reluctantly under some circumstances I used to go along with that, but my heart always yearned for the conversational sincerity that is now very much the fashion. Hoey does it superbly. I can think of several very good speakers who clearly learnt the skill from oratory-mongers, but now struggle to soften the formality a little. They should watch Kate Hoey. She wears sincerity with the ease of that silk scarf. And in passing it is worth noting that her political record shows the sincerity to be not a mask but genuine.
She shoots from the hip, of course, and is perfectly comfortable with a slightly halting delivery. She speaks with us as if across a coffee table, and all your senses tell you she absolutely means everything she says.
As a Labour MP she appears puzzled that Labour Leave – the eurosceptic group within the Labour movement – is relatively small. Some of the most distinguished names in her party’s history opposed the EEC (now the EU); and she is even more puzzled that the many of her party colleagues that are highly suspicious of TTIP nevertheless want Britain to stay in the EU.
She also makes the point that though its supporters cleverly equate the EU with Europe, it very definitely is not Europe. It is a relatively small cabal of politicians and bureaucrats who have nearly managed to hijack the entire continent.
There’s a thread through this speech, from her harking back to historic Labour grandees like Gaitskell, Foot, and Castle to the enjoyable camaraderie that she experienced earlier that evening, handing out leaflets in the company of people from all other political parties. That thread is Popular Sovereignty, grass roots, people.
As a believer in people, I cheer her.