Boris, he won’t
July 31, 2019
Johnson may be a political scoundrel, but he's also a rhetorical raconteur, qualified to keynote a speechwriters conference.
We keep hearing that Boris Johnson is the United Kindgom’s version of Donald Trump. Why do they get the rhetorically sophisticated one?
Even if the new prime minister’s political agenda is as messed up as his mop—professional speechwriters will inevitably be charmed (if not intimidated) by this rhetorical raconteur. Writes the emcee of an event where Johnson was supposed to speak:
It was an awards ceremony at the Hilton, Park Lane. The room was packed with financial people in bow ties. … Right now [Johnson] was due to make a funny speech.
In four minutes.
There I was, at 9:26pm, sitting with a table-load of London bankers, trying to answer their questions. “Will Boris actually arrive?” “Is he normally this late?” “Has he got lost?”
I answered them all as best I could:
(a) I’m sorry
(b) I don’t know
(c) I don’t see Boris Johnson that often
… Suddenly—BOOM. A rush of wind from an opened door, a golden mop, a heave of body and dinner jacket onto the chair next to mine, and the breathless question, at 9:28pm: “JEREMY. Where exactly AM I?”
Do not fail to read the story of how Johnson brought the house down with a speech that seemed hilariously chaotic but was actually entirely canned. (Thanks to PSA member and star Chicago speechwriter Elizabeth Austin for the steer.)
And if you think Johnson’s self-save was a fluke, think again. The dude could keynote a speechwriters conference. Here, his rhetorical erudition reduces his interlocutor to helpless giggles.
I’m quite sure I’m politicallly opposed to Boris Johnson. But I’m rhetorically smitten, God help me. —DM