It’s not been a good couple of days for our leading politicians. David Cameron has been overhead telling the former Mayor of New York that the Queen ‘purred down the phone’ on being told the results of the referendum on Scottish Independence.
Describing any 88 year old woman’s speech as ‘purring’ would be inappropriate, but saying it about the Queen defies belief. The British Prime Minister made the Monarch seem like George Galloway and his infamous cat impression on Celebrity Big Brother. It was not just the breach of protocol, but the gossipy,’ boys together’ nature of the exchange that made Cameron look so bad.
Meanwhile over in Manchester, Ed Miliband gave his last conference speech before the general election. A chance to hammer home the messages, one might think. He omitted to mention the deficit or immigration, two issues that are not only important to the British electorate but were also in the draft speech that he chose to deliver without a script. The tradition at party conferences is for journalists to be handed the leader’s speech with Check Against Delivery written across the top. So it didn’t take journalists to work out when the delivery fell short.
Miliband gave a toe-curlingly dissembling response on Breakfast TV this morning, claiming that it was all part of his free form style of speech writing and delivery – some things get left out, some things get added in, hey that’s the way I roll. He even claimed that it was all part of his approach to doing politics differently. That will be the ‘doing politics differently by forgetting important stuff’ technique then. He came across as shifty.
No-one wants robotic leaders, whether of the country or organisations. Authenticity, informality and warmth are valuable attributes. But there’s no substitute for good old-fashioned dignity and rehearsal. Perhaps Cameron and Miliband need to take a few lessons from an 88 year old who has seen plenty of party leaders come and go?