Search online for references to Christopher Monckton and you quickly learn that he does not have opponents so much as enemies. You also learn how often those enemies have managed to find excuses not to debate him. Let’s find out the reasons for both of those. Here he is speaking to the International Free Press Society in Canada in March 2012.
He is introduced by Eva Ryten, Director of IFPS, Canada. By her own claim she had just three minutes notice, but the introduction is delivered with fluency and assurance – even through the few ‘ums’ and ‘errs’. She completed it in two minutes and even included an amusing anecdote. She’s good.
Monckton is very good. He epitomises the current fashion for conversational sincerity. He delivers material that is beautifully arranged for maximum coherence and impact, and does so with crystal clarity. Grudgingly I highlight his capacity for delivering a lengthy address, filled with data, without the aid of script or notes. It earns the highlight because it is so rare. I am grudging because it should not be rare. It is easy. All my trainees can do it.
He begins at 2:13 and ends at 28:05. The rest is Q&A. The questions range widely in their subject matter but his answers are every bit as coherently answered, and still without paper.
When we are looking at someone this good, it is time for me to get out my finest nit-picking tweezers. He adjusts the microphones, and does so correctly: when he speaks there is no popping. So far so good.
His first words bother me. “My Lords – that’s me…”. I’m sorry, but even a humorous, self-mocking reference to your own peerage is slightly tacky. I know it has become a sensitive subject for him, with people challenging whether he is actually a peer. He is: he’s a viscount by inheritance but the doubt arrived via the fact that he may not sit or vote in the upper house since its reforms. Perhaps that’s why this is in there and I’ve seen him use it on other occasions; but if I were advising him it would be cut.
It is immediately followed by a well-road-tested throwaway line, “I can’t wait to hear what I’m going to say.” It’s not original, but who cares? it’s a good one.
“A prostitute, a politician and an engineer were in a bar…”. Anyone who has done a course with me – or even read my book – will tell you that this is virtually guaranteed not to get a laugh. Sure enough, it doesn’t. Was it meant to? I’m not altogether sure. It has a message that is at least semi-serious and might have exonerated it but he adds a detail concerning “a viscount’s coronet and an old-Harrovian tie”. Re-read my previous paragraph and know why I’d want to remove the whole thing. My only hesitation comes from uncertainty concerning the research he has conducted into this audience (one of them is wearing a Guards’ tie). It may be that he has satisfied himself that this sort of thing will resonate well with them. He does need here about a minute of something to get the audience settled, but I’d be inclined to find something else. If he is particularly enamoured of this story – and in fairness it is a good one – then he should use it elsewhere in the speech.
Regular readers might have noticed how I get mightily exercised about the first minute or two of a speech, often merely referring to the whole of the rest in relatively few words. A speech is like the flight of an aeroplane inasmuch as most of the crucial danger is in the take-off and landing. Once it’s up it largely looks after itself – particularly if the pilot is as expert as this. Monckton lays out his case and expresses it with ruthless power. Small wonder his opponents’ fear has morphed into hatred.
I earlier mentioned conversational sincerity which is the style that audiences seek nowadays. The Monckton variety has none of the silky smoothness of Hannan nor the buffoonery of Boris – though funnily enough, off the platform, he often uses buffoonery to draw attention to his cause. His speaking delivery is matter-of-fact and deliberate, in fact it is blunt. Not for the first time in this blog I find myself drawn to the quotation from W.B.Yeats – Think like a wise man but express yourself like the common people. He speaks slowly in order to be thoroughly understood. Any slower and it might seem patronising. Where Hannan embellishes with elegant phrasing and erudite quoting, Monckton underpins his arguments with truckloads of data and devastating logic. He has done his homework; and if you debated him you would be very foolish not to have done yours, and even more foolish to attempt to fudge any facts.
Perhaps that’s why his enemies seem to restrict themselves to ad hominem sniping from a safe distance.
[added 17/3/13 – or they use fair means or foul to try to prevent his being heard at all. How confident is anyone of their argument when they seek to silence opposing views?]