Douglas Murray is characteristically excellent

A National Conservatism conference was held in Rome in February 2020. One of their speakers was Douglas Murray.

Murray has, I suspect, been on this blog more often than anyone else, the most recent outing being here in May of last year. I make no apology for seeking a regular dose of his speaking. He is just so damn good!

Hmm! Either he has failed to stand close enough to his razor or we are looking at an embryonic beard. If the latter I look forward to seeing it once it has grown up. Is he seeking to adjust his image from brittle, surgical, forensic enfant terrible to cuddly uncle? If so that beard will classify as camouflage: not all beardies are avuncular, however cuddly they may look. Future adversaries beware.

What an opening! Beautifully conceived, and delivered dead-pan. Murray, the still image for this video notwithstanding, is habitually dead-pan and it works very well for him. In fact the weakest I have seen his presentation of arguments was not in a speech but once when interviewed by Mark Steyn. Being in the company of a good friend, and a funny one, he was smiling a lot and it seemed to take some of the edge off the points he was promoting.

He remains surgical. At 08:43 his withering, dismissive, dismantling of a fatuous children’s programme that the embarrassing BBC screened on the day Britain left the EU is a copybook example.

He and I have both recently been interviewed on the same podcast, though in different episodes. I wouldn’t presume to compare myself with him: he researches profoundly and has wonderful things to say whereas I am by nature a listener and tend to interview the interviewer. But we had something in common. Though both anxious about much in the world, we shared and expressed overall optimism. I said that I believed in people, which the interviewer paraphrased as “the wisdom of crowds”, the title of a book by James Surowiecki who may be appearing before long on this blog.

The title of Douglas Murray’s latest book, which I heartily recommend, is The Madness of Crowds. If that title seems to contradict my view of people the book’s content doesn’t, and nor do the closing stages of this characteristically excellent speech.

Kate Hoey believes in people

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.