Jacob Rees-Mogg has confidence

In 2015 the Oxford Union held a debate on the motion,

This House Has No Confidence in Her Majesty’s Government

One of the speakers was Jacob Rees-Mogg who, as a member of the governing party in Her Majesty’s Parliament, predictably spoke in opposition.

Browse online on line in order to research Rees-Mogg’s quality of speaking and, before you even get to watch this example, you have a good idea what to expect. As he had previously been on this blog, I thought myself already well versed in Rees-Moggery, but still I went a-browsing. What I found was that he adjusts his tone and pace (though never, I’m delighted to report, his accent) according to each audience. This is a sound device but only if you do it very subtly, which he does, unlike a recent British Prime Minister who by unsubtly varying everything including his accent merely contrived to make himself sound phoney.

I was also wildly entertained in Rees-Mogg’s welcoming of interjections. He habitually gives way with an eagerness that suggests that Christmas has come early, and you understand why when very courteously he proceeds to carve up the interjection. Anyone who takes him on is playing on his home turf, as he is lightning-fast and very well briefed. You can find such examples here and here.

I was faintly surprised to find that Repartee was not actually his middle name.

He uses home turf insight with this speech, because he was the Oxford Union Librarian in his day. Consider that when he brings up the subject of gin in the second minute.  Also watch how he softens up this audience with gentle self-deprecation.

At 3:05 he delights in giving way to some rash person. Christmas comes early.

At 5:25 he begins a section which is music to my ears. It begins by his asserting that Conservatives believe that Society is built from individuals up, not from the state down. I am delighted to hear that he at least believes in the principle, and I concur that Conservatives in general agree, but I fear that the parliamentary party – particularly the leadership – has shown little indication of this since he made this speech.

The peroration is short but dramatic.

The Oxford Union, unlike the Cambridge Union, appears not to publish the result of the votes that conclude debates. Did the house have confidence? I don’t know, but Rees-Mogg’s confidence in himself in well-founded.

Mark Reckless and betrayal

On 27 September, 2014, at the United Kingdom Independence Party conference in Doncaster, the party leader – Nigel Farage – took the podium for a publicized half-hour speech.

Who knew? Judging by the response to Mark Reckless’s first sentence, eleven words which occupied more than a minute till he could start on the second, interrupted as it repeatedly was by thunderous applause, very few in that auditorium had prior knowledge. I have racked my memory in vain to recall Twitter rumours.

I regularly here praise speakers who shoot their speeches from the hip, while castigating those who need to prompt themselves with notes or worse still scripts. Many regard shooting from the hip as a risky circus trick. It is neither risky nor a trick. It is safe and easy if you know how, and it tells the audience a lot of good things about you and your message – things like sincerity, command of your subject, and so on. Mark Reckless shoots this speech from the hip.

His structure for the first half is simple. He lists a series of promises that he made in good faith to his constituents when elected. He concludes the section devoted to each promise with the words, “I couldn’t keep that promise as a Conservative; I can keep that promise as UKIP.” Had he stayed with the Conservative Party therefore he would have betrayed those who voted for him, his party masters having broken a succession of electoral promises.

He says, early in the speech, that Members of Parliament are – with a few honourable exceptions – not representatives of their constituents in Parliament but agents of a political class. Within minutes of this speech being delivered the Conservative Party spin machine swung into action with announcements in which the word “betrayal” was bandied about.

Who is the betrayer: who the betrayed?

He had betrayed his party. They confirmed all he’d said by implying that loyalty to party trumped loyalty to electorate.

The last of his list of promises he couldn’t keep as a Conservative concerns the EU. This prompts a swing into an analysis of the issue. He proceeds to unpick the spin from the truth, and in the process makes some prophesies as to the political sleight of hand we can expect. Today, a month later, we can see some of that has already happened.

I hold no political party membership, and resent being made as cynical towards the party system as I have become. Is UKIP the answer? I have no idea. But my endless watching of speeches gives me a well-honed bullshit sense. I have to say I believe that this man means what he tells us. And I commend his famous last sentence.

We are more than a star on somebody else’s flag.