An Open Letter to British speechwriter Max Atkinson

Dear Mr. Atkinson,

In the latest post on your excellent blog plainly-enough named Max Atkinson’s Blog, you applaud a writer from The Independent, for echoing your long held view that, in England anyway, the once-celebrated art of oratory is going to hell in a hand basket.

Scribbled Steve Richards, to your standing ovation:

In the UK an important political art is no longer practised, even though the skill brings politics to life in an era of determined apathy. The demise is neither mourned nor noticed and yet the absence makes for duller politics – politics at a distance. …

This is the first generation of national politicians without a single orator, a single mesmerising speaker. There is not one who can cast a spell. Tony Blair was the last great speaker, an underestimated orator who never delivered a dull speech. Blair could make a lacklustre text and sometimes a silly one come to inspiring life.

Your only quibble with Richards’ piece is your disagreement with its claim that the decline in oratory was sudden. “There were already signs of it in the title of the paper I gave at the Essex conference after the 1983 general election, namely ‘The 1983 election and the demise of live oratory.'”

Max, I have three questions: First, why do you think oratory is declining so? Second: Do you see this decline as a British thing, or do you see this in the States too? Finally: Doesn’t it give you the least bit of pause (as it does me) when you see the world declining at the same steady rate as you?

I’ll look forward to hearing from you, Sir.


David Murray, Editor

Vital Speeches of the Day

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