Stirring up conference

Liberal Democrat Voice at Conference

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Twenty-five years ago in Buxton’s Pavilion Gardens, the SDP were debating a worthy paper on equality at their annual conference, when a novice speaker Ann Brennan came to the podium.

Brennan punctuated the pomposity of the discussion by making some pithy observations on the foibles of the Guardian-reading delegates and the high-falutin language used in many of the policy documents.

“The most refreshing speech we’ve heard so far”, commented Sir Robin Day wryly. In fact Mrs Brennan’s performance was not entirely spontaneous. She had received coaching from Max Atkinson, who was then an Oxford academic.

Professor Max Atkinson went on to be Paddy Ashdown’s speechwriter. But despite Max selling thousands of books, the simple techniques of speechwriting are still eschewed by the many top people in public life. Verbless sentences, meaningless phrases and jargon litter the speeches of many politicians.

You can be sure that many delegates at this year’s Liberal Democrat conference will make the mistake of focusing on what they want to say, rather than how they ought best to say it.

Speechmaking is where politics and art meets. Some of us speechwriters hope that politicians will be inspired by Obama’s example to raise their game. To this end, we have founded the UK Speechwriters’ Guild to share knowledge and raise the profile of the profession.

On the eve of the Liberal Democrat conference in Bournemouth this year, we have organised a speechwriting conference. Delegates will be able to hear Professor Max Atkinson in action, along with Phil Collins, former speechwriter to Tony Blair and Dr Susan Jones, a long-standing civil service speechwriter.

We’re not exclusive. Anyone with an interest in speechmaking is welcome. We’re meeting on Friday 18 September 2009 at the Arts University College, Bournemouth. For more details go to or 01202 551257.

To see Anne Brennan’s speech see (.mov file).

Brian Jenner is a speechwriter.

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This entry was posted in Conference.


  • Daniel Bowen 9th Aug '09 - 12:07pm

    But Brian is also a rampant Tory.

  • Mike Falchikov 10th Aug '09 - 12:14am

    More to the point, what happened to Ann Brennan?

  • Daniel Bowen 10th Aug '09 - 10:17am

    It costs a nice round £168 per attendee.

    How much did Brian Jenner pay Lib Dem Voice for this advert?

  • Clearly her coaching didn’t include sticking to the time limit or how to bring a speech to a close if you are heading towards your time limit!

  • Tom Papworth 11th Aug '09 - 2:02pm

    “I don’t think speechwriters are going to represent the unacceptable face of capitalism very soon. ”

    Blimey. You’re able to say what speechwriters will and will not represent now?

    I can see why you’ve called it the Speechwriters’ Guild.

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