Liz Truss: Whitehall Farce

On 17 December 2020 the Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss, MP delivered a live-streamed speech from the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) in London. It received a great deal of publicity at the time: The Independent called it “bonkers”, and it seems that bits of the transcript were redacted from the government website. They may have been edited out here also, for all I know.

Let’s have a look…

She is introduced by Robert Colville, director of the CPS, and immediately I am wincing. Many, if not most, inexperienced speakers have a problem with their hands. There are reasons and simple solutions with which I shall not tire you, but the very worst thing to do with your hands is to stick your thumbs in your pockets. Again I’ll spare you the several paragraphs I could add here in explanation.

Colville begins with his thumbs in his pockets. In fact he seems deeply unhappy throughout this introduction, and although it is barely one minute long I can’t wait for it to finish. Within seconds of Truss starting I’m wishing Colville had gone on longer.

What is it about Whitehall? I am reminded of a speech I covered on this blog in November 2012. William Hague, a superb speaker in real life, had spoken in his then capacity as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and done it like a lobotomised automaton. Though I have supplied a link to that posting you can see only my comments because it seems that some official, so embarrassed by the speech, has removed it. I sympathise.

Is there a Whitehall Civil Service department responsible for advising ministers how to deliver official speeches? If so I recommend that it be broken up forthwith and its staff reassigned to occupations more suited to their talents. I suggest scarecrows. The incompetence hereby manifested throws light on much else that emanates from the cvil service in Whitehall.

Lis Truss is an able politician. She doesn’t speak like this. No one speaks like this. I’m not referring to the essential message, which is fairly reasonable – though appallingly structured – I refer to the way it is being put across. It wouldn’t be less engaging if written in Klingon. This bland monotone, periodically punctuated by huge meaningless pauses is simply ghastly.

The Big Pause is an excellent speaking device with a wide range of beneficial uses. Deployment at random between sentences is not one of them.

I fell asleep at one point, and when I awoke was unable to establish what I had missed. I confess it was all so awful that I couldn’t bring myself to go back over it. Therefore I can’t tell you whether there are edit-points in there to indicate redaction. I was past caring.

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