Watching the Prime Minister deliver his speech on security and liberty this afternoon, I did begin to wonder why he bothers. As soon as he locks into declamatory mode, it is very difficult for the audience to maintain their concentration.
He rounded off with a less-than convincing defence of the Labour government’s record on freedom of expression, which was further undermined by a refusal to take questions from the media.
But in the question and answer session with invited guests afterwards he was really rather good. He answered a series of questions from experts in the audience, including Shami Chakrabarti from Liberty and Jeremy Greenstock, Britain’s former ambassador to the UN, in a relaxed and considered manner. He even showed great courtesy to the man from the “NO2ID” anti-ID card campaign.
I remember seeing Brown work these Q&As to his advantage during his leadership hustings. He’s at his best during these more informal sessions.
Unfortunately for him, these go largely unreported and it is the set-piece speeches which we remember.