Wednesday, 23 May 2012
Cameron's verbal behaviour
In some ways, this post is a continuation of the previous post on taking sides, especially in politics. David Cameron, our beleaguered Prime Minister is a case in point. Only his most loyal supporters seem willing to give much credence to what he says and the promises he appears to make.
For the sake of argument, let's divide verbal behaviour into two types - tactical and altruistic. Let's do this simply because it is a common way of judging the verbal behaviour of significant people we don't know personally.
Tactical verbal behaviour is speaking (or writing) for effect while altruistic verbal behaviour is speaking (or writing) with the hope of making the world a very slightly better place. The two are not mutually exclusive of course. One may speak altruistically as a tactic and one may speak tactically for altruistic reasons. It's a murky pond with two extremes. There are other words we could use too, if we accept a certain looseness of association.
Tactical - Covert - Manipulative
Altruistic - Overt - Cooperative
David Cameron's public verbal behaviour is strongly tactical, as is the public verbal behaviour of most politicians. The problem he faces is that this personal trait is glaringly obvious even to his potential supporters. It must have been obvious to friends and political colleagues before he became Conservative party leader, yet for some reason it wasn't seen as a major defect in the way he presents himself.
It should have been.
Maybe he succeeded because of Tony Blair's enormous political success as a tactical speaker, but that presupposed a public who had not wised up to Blair's approach. Surely a naive assumption.
In addition, Blair was gifted at sounding altruistic for covert tactical reasons. It may have been transparent to many, but it worked well enough to win three elections with an inept rabble at his back.
Similarly, if less effectively, Ed Miliband, whatever his defects, tends to give hints of altruism in his public verbal behaviour - and possibly his body-language too. He seems to care. It may not be genuine or particularly convincing and he suffers from his association with glaringly obvious tacticians such as Ed Balls, but it's there.
This may not be the conventional view, yet in terms of his public verbal behaviour, Ed Milliband may turn out to have the edge on David Cameron, horrifying though that prospect may be to those of us who hope for some kind of political shakeup.