In March, 2018, nearly two years after the British people had handed their government their instruction to leave the EU, we still had not done so.
(Today more than two years after that, we still have not done so, though just over a week ago at the end of June we passed the deadline after which another extension of the transition may not be granted. Now, the rules state that on 31 December we leave – for better or worse – with whatever deal has been agreed, or without one. Back to 28 March 2018 …)
The Bruges Group held a conference, entitled Clean Brexit in Princess Alexandra Hall in London. One of the speakers was Liam Halligan.
If you clicked the link that I customarily attach to the speaker’s name, you will see that Halligan is a distinguished columnist and broadcaster. To most, that combination would guarantee that he crafts good arguments and can convey them to an auditorium. By no means is this necessarily true: broadcasting and public speaking are enormously different.
You need only glance at the still picture above to see that Halligan is reading his speech. Therefore before we hear a word we know that the speech is not as good as it could or should be. His website tells us he speaks often, but if he has not done himself the favour of learning how to dispense with paper then however good the words he will not do justice to their delivery – at least not to the bits that he reads. If only he knew how easy it is!
He starts well. It’s a funny opening. His self-deprecating summary of himself as an economist trips off his tongue with the smoothness of the oft-repeated, but I have no problem with that. Nor has he: thorough road-testing of such routines are what make them work. Then at 1:33 his eyes go down to his article and, no longer being spontaneous, a fat slice comes off the top of his stage presence.
As readers go, he’s a pretty good one. He’s expressive and lively, but he’s still a talking head. You could close your eyes and know from the sound alone that he’s regurgitating something he wrote previously.
But not always. At 6:26 he gets excited and doesn’t look down again for nine seconds. That may not seem much time, but for those nine seconds the whole tenor of the delivery lifts markedly.
Those nine seconds are also long enough to lose him his place in the script, and a lame pause ensues. For about the thousandth time on this blog I’m shouting at the screen, “Throw the bloody script away!” He could do it, easily: he just doesn’t know he could.
Otherwise, it’s not a bad speech.