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  1. Politics
5 February 2010

Are these the ten best political speeches?

Read, watch, listen, agree, disagree.

By Samira Shackle

Political speeches make news, for their content, for their delivery, and for their significance. (Did you notice my rhetorical trio there? Tony Blair would be proud.)

The art of rhetoric — the use of language as a means to persuade — has been studied and prized for over 2,000 years. A talent for oration can be the key to political success (Barack Obama): a lack of the skill of public communication could spell disaster (Gordon Brown?).

This week’s New Statesman features an essay on the art of political speechwriting in modern times on both sides of the Atlantic. What does the process entail, and how has it survived in the era of spin?

To complement that magazine treat, we’ve put together a special online package of our favourite political speeches made by British politicians since 1945. Wherever possible, we’ve included audio and video clips, or links to recordings.

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These are our choices:

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1. Aneurin Bevan, anti-Suez speech, Trafalgar Square rally, November 1956

2. Enoch Powell, speech on the Hola Camp in Kenya, House of Commons, July 1959

3. Harold Macmillan, speech to the South African parliament, Cape Town, February 1960

4. Hugh Gaitskell, speech on nuclear disarmament, Labour party conference, 1960

5. Margaret Thatcher, Brighton bomb speech, Conservative party conference, October 1984

6. Neil Kinnock, Militant speech, Labour party conference, October 1985

7. Sir Geoffrey Howe, resignation speech, House of Commons, November 1990

8. Robin Cook, resignation speech, House of Commons, March 2003

9. David Cameron, leadership bid, Conservative party conference, October 2005

10. Tony Blair, last conference speech, Labour party conference, September 2006

11. Three more that didn’t quite make the cut

 

But what have we left out? Aneurin Bevan on the NHS? Margaret Thatcher proclaiming “No, no, no”? Keith Joseph on inflation in 1974? (NB: That was another rhetorical trio, with some casual rhetorical questions thrown in. Watch and learn.) You tell us. And enjoy.

 

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