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Some friends and I have just set up a training company, to teach business people (and others) how to speak in public. We’re a television presenter, an actor, a comedian, and someone who teaches people to win pitches for a living who are tired of seeing people whose job involves speaking for a living doing that job less well than they should. Also, we want them to give us pots of cash.
In that spirit, then, here are 4 tips for Theresa May, to help her improve her joke-telling style.
When she launched her leadership campaign, you may have heard that she told a “hilarious joke”. It was certainly a well-written joke, but was it hilarious?
The squelch and crunch on “nearly new water cannon” is delightful, the set up is well-weighted, but a joke (in this context) consists of both content and performance, and her performance of the joke could be bumped up with a few simple steps. I think it’s fair to say that her delivery is a disgrace to the words she is uttering and she should never be allowed near a joke again. Unless she heeds the following tips…
- At least try to pretend that you’re happy to be telling a joke. At 00:29 your demeanour changes entirely. The breathing becomes quicker, you start looking down at notes to convince yourself that you’re doing the right thing, your tell-tale lower mouth discomfort-twitch becomes more pronounced. Breathe. Relax. You’re about to tell a joke. What’s the worst that could happen? It could bomb and the nation’s media could turn on you for ill-considered flippancy thus scuppering your hopes to become Prime Minister, and leaving your career at the mercy of one of the people you’re standing against. But APART FROM THAT.
- Don’t gabble. This is related to the point above, and is one of the nervous tics that being confident in telling your joke will help resolve. You almost kill this joke by running over “last time he did a deal with the Germans” which are all important words that help “three nearly new water cannon” land. Without that phrase it’s a much weaker gag. We can all see in your eyes that you wish you weren’t having to tell this joke, but you do. You’re standing there, so give it every chance of life by making the whole thing audible.
- Eye contact. In the first 29 seconds, where you’re not telling a joke you look down twice, both times at the ends of sentences of phrases so it seems natural. In the ten seconds you’re telling the joke you also look down twice, this time in the middle of sentences, which makes it look like you’re thinking about bailing on the joke. Don’t Commit to it. And try to keep the desperate pleading for a response out of your eyes when you look up at the end.
- Revel in your joke. Well done. You’ve told a joke. In this case the laugh seems slightly delayed, probably because it wasn’t a context in which people were expecting a joke and your body language didn’t cue them to the fact that you had told one. But once they are laughing, let them laugh. Seem to enjoy it. Don’t crash the laugh by rushing on when you have a second in which to enjoy it. After all, you might not get many of those in the months and years to come…
TTW Training is available to whack your business leaders’s words into shape here…
This all feels a little redundant now.
I was going to say this felt like a pretty simple choice between principles and practicalities.
I was going to say that the principle of less-opaque government, closer and more responsive to the people it serves was a good one, and an important one.
I was going to say that when a decision will have a material impact on your quality of life, it’s entirely valid to choose to vote based on that rather than on principle.
I was going to ask how the people who boasted of watching Suffragette with their daughters were going to explain the fact that they were trying to make sure that the votes the Pankhursts fought for meant less and less.
I was going to ask the warriors for freedom from the tyranny of the state how they could justify leaving the only organisation that guarantees the free movement of people and things across state borders,without state interference.
I was going to point out that small businesses producing ebooks and digital products – the sort of low-overhead businesses of innovation we should be encouraging – were being killed by the VATMOSS rules, which lowered the VAT threshold to, effectively, zero for anyone selling a PDF of their self-published novel within the EU.
I was going to point out that a couple of weeks of Brexit speculation had wiped more off the FTSE than years of EU membership would have cost.
I was going to cast a disparaging side-eye over intelligent people who claimed there was no difference in how democratic the EU is compared to how democratic the United Kingdom is.
I was going to cast a disparaging side-eye over people complaining about a ‘democratic deficit’ who have never once complained about the House of Lords or a monarch who vetoes bills she doesn’t like before they even get to the House of Commons.
I was going to point out that you’re not reclaiming your sovereignty when you intend on giving it straight to an actual sovereign.
I was going to explain that a bigger constituency means that your vote is worth less (something the same people I’d have explained it to seemed to understand when the Tories were planning on ditching 50 MPs and making each constituency bigger).
I was going to explain that I’d never really found any compelling argument that Britain was the ideal-sized unit in which democracy should reside.
I was going to bemoan the fact that the RemaIN side seemed dull and technocratic and seemed to accept the EU as a necessary evil rather than making a positive, European case for a more-hopeful future.
I was going to bemoan the fact that the Brexit camp had the inescapable whiff of a mid-life crisis, its rhetoric a tubby husband who resents having to go to work all day whilst living with a wife who’s gone off him and children who barely notice him. A man who, holding his stomach in in the mirror, remembers when he had a full head of hair and there was that girl at that party and once he spent a whole weekend smoking weed and listening to Derek and Clive and he’s sure he could have all that again. A man who believes that moving out and finding himself a flat and making a new start and really having a proper conversation with the girl in the sandwich shop will sort his life out once and for all.
I was going to make the case that no one has mentioned the fact that British foreign policy was, for hundreds of years, the maintenance of a balance of power in Europe. We meddled, we made alliances, we got involved in wars, just to make sure that the French and the Germans never made an alliance of which we weren’t part. We recognised – Wellington recognised, Churchill recognised, every statesman for centuries recognised – that a united Europe, with Britain on the outside is the most grave threat to its existence. And we are preparing to give up our foremost foreign policy aim for no distinguishable benefit. Not only that, we’re doing it because we’re afraid there will be more integration, a common foreign policy, a common defense policy, the very situation we could both prevent and ameliorate the worst effects of if we were in the EU. To give away a United States of Europe of which the UK isn’t a part seems foolish, short-sighted and potentially suicidal.
I was going to point out that Tony Benn and Bob Crow all made solid, left-wing arguments for leaving the EU.
I was going to point out that they were both dead, and instead we had Farage and Johnson and Gove.
I was going to say that pointing to all the good things the EU has done for us which we wouldn’t have had otherwise is implicitly mistrustful of democracy and your fellow citizens. It is a failure of the left that they have not made the case compellingly enough that the people of Britain haven’t demanded them at the ballot box.
I was going to say that pointing to the pressure on public services and blaming it on immigration was simply a canard, and a dangerous one. The provision of infrastructure is the job of government and if there aren’t enough hospitals or schools it’s not the fault of the people in the hospitals or schools, it’s the fault of a government that prioritises reducing inheritance tax over building schools, and building HS2 over building hospitals.
I was going to say that the example of the Lisbon Treaty, whipped up to avoid referendums on a new constitution after France and Ireland rejected a new constitution, but consisting of most of the same things a new constitution would, showed how resistant it was to reform.
I was going to say that given the structure of Article 50, which will make the two-year negotiation process as difficult as possible for any country that wants to leave, and before the conclusion of which no trade agreements can be negotiated, reforming the EU from within and exacting concessions from within (Thatcher’s rebate, Major’s EU opt-out, Blair’s Schengen exemption, Cameron’s rejection of “ever-closer union”) is much more likely to succeed than attempting an amicable separation.
I was going to note the irony of being suddenly lectured by those who had previously been fiscal conservatives on a trade deficit being a good thing because “they want to sell things to us.”
I was going to say that this wasn’t a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as evidenced by the fact that – for many people – it’s the second time in their life they’re getting to make this decision.
I was going to say that question is not “Is the EU in its current form a good organisation?” but “Do you – right now and under these circumstances, on a fixed timetable – think Britain should invoke Article 50 and start the process of leaving the EU?”
I was going to say that you have to vote for the campaign you get, not the one you wish you’d had, and a vote for something carries an implicit approval of its campaign.
I was going to point out that the Vote Leave posters had finally shoved me firmly into the RemaIN camp. The nudges and winks and sly undertones of arguments and posters about Turks were appealing to the worst in human nature, a campaign of undisguised race-baiting and division, and one in which I – in good conscience – could not reward with my vote.
I was going to point out that saying you wanted to leave the EU because we didn’t want “our noses rubbed in diversity”, the fact that the background for the Vote Leave website’s header is MIGRATION in tabloid type, and the outright lies told about the proportion of migration that is from within the EU (more than half is from outside) was turning this from a campaign about the way in which we’re governed into a nasty, septic flirtation with nationalism.
And then yesterday happened.
So I think we have to face up to what the practical implications of a Brexit vote are.
Very simply, if we vote to leave, that will have immediate, practical consequences, and to pretend they will not happen or do not matter is to wash our hands one too many times in my view.
Simply, a victory for the Leave campaign with strengthen the in-party positions of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage.
Both Johnson and Farage are in the middle on an inter-party struggle for power.
Farage is desperate to keep control of the party, away from the more libertarian positions of the Carswells. He is unashamed about stoking racial tensions to cement his position (he doesn’t like hearing foreign languages on the train, he doesn’t want his nose rubbed in diversity, and he doesn’t want Romanians moving in next door), to the point where he will happily stand in front of a poster that recreates Nazi propaganda to stoke fear about refugees. He’s had to fight off challenges from within the party (and demoted Suzanne Evans because he disagreed with her), but a vote for Leave will cement his position atop the UKIP dunghill for the foreseeable future.
(Here’s a quick reminder: UKIP Welsh Assembly Member Neil Hamilton walked around the Reichstag giving Hitler salutes when he visited as an MP and also gave speeches to Italian neo-fascists in the late 1960s.)
Whether or not Boris “grinning piccaninnies with watermelon smiles” Johnson would make it to the party membership vote for party leader we don’t know, but we do know that his position has been immensely strengthened with them by his visible leadership of the Leave campaign.
We also know that he doesn’t mean what he says. His own great-grandfather was Turkish and he made a very effective documentary about Turkey’s role in developing the idea of civilisation and why it should be allowed into the EU.
Now he rails against the swarthy Turk, beefing over here with his hairy forearms to do unmentionable things to our green sward. And being a venal and empty spouter of whatever’s convenient isn’t perhaps the worst thing in the world, except that in this case he’s deliberately stoking the most dangerous of tensions (without any belief in their truth) for political gain.
And, of course, on day after the referendum, Donald Trump will arrive in Britain. If we’ve voted to leave he will claim it as a great personal victory: “It was always my opinion. I have some great opinions. Let me tell you, opinion-wise I’m a very wise man. I know all the opinions. Huge opinions.”
This referendum has been characterised, on the whole, by the things we don’t know: the economic effect of leaving, how EU citizens living here now would be affected, what the process would be.
But we do know this:
A vote to leave will have the immediate, practical effect of putting two of Britain’s political parties, and a great round of coverage on American television networks, into the hands of men who are unafraid to flirt with fascism, nationalism, and racism.
So I’m voting to remain. And I hope you will, too.
Bert signed up on his birthday. He was sick and tired of the looks people gave him, the whispered comments, the shopkeeper’s glare.
So he signed up as soon as he could.
And they marched a lot, and they scrubbed a lot, and there was shouting and six months later he found himself shipping out for France.
For a few weeks, they were behind the lines, billetted in a chateau, but soon enough the message came, as the days lengthened.
And then it was trench rations, and billy cans, and snobbing boots and waiting.
And then, one morning, there was no more waiting to be done. And the order came. And over they went.
And a few minutes later, Bert was staring at the sky and thinking.
He could see a lot of mud, splashes of mangled barbed wire with what he hoped was cloth hanging off. There were people, too, or bits of people, groans and the sound of mud bubbles being blown.
And Bert thought of his mum, as he try to hold his insides inside. Stuck in a crater, leaking from his middle, he thought of his mum and his sisters and of his uncles. And the shopkeeper. And all the hands he hadn’t held. And he hoped they’d remember.
He hoped they’d think of him in time to come. Hoped they’d remember him, laughing, brave, remember what he’d given. He hoped they’d take a moment every now and then to think of him.
He hoped, most of all, that they’d remember him by having a self-aggrandising oaf get photos of himself taken while playing tug-of-war, so that he could become prime minister one day.
Yes, he hoped that most of all.
And then Bert died.
The final episode of Ian Bowler’s Electile Dysfunction.
There’s a new Ian Bowler video out.
The eagle-eared among you may have noticed that I was not invited to the LBC Mayoral debate that turned into a triple-fuckathon in the lift. Despite that fact that this would clearly have been the best place to showcase my own, quite spectacular, personal lexicon of vulgarity together with half-baked theories about what London does or doesn’t need, I wasn’t invited.
LBC didn’t see their way clear to extending me an invitation. Neither did the BBC ask me on their Newsnight special last week. All in all, I can only conclude that there has been a wide-ranging media conspiracy to conceal me from the general public.
Perhaps partly because I am no longer an official candidate for London Mayor.
As March reached its end it became clear that I wasn’t going to have raised the £10,000 deposit needed to stand for Mayor of London. We raised some, but nowhere near enough. It was a little galling to realise that we had more than enough support in the boroughs to get the 330 signatures we would have needed, but that simple lack of funds was going to prevent us doing it for real.
Not to mention that the whole process was a massive pain in the arse. Who would have thought that standing for Mayor on an ill-thought-through platform, pretty much as a laugh would be hideously expensive, involve soul-crushing amounts of admin, and could possibly mean that you go to jail for electoral fraud? Really, who?
So, I’ve put off blogging about this out of embarrassment more than anything else. I feel like I’ve let a lot of people down. People who made posters life this:
I’ve let down the hundreds of people who offered their signatures, and offered to collect others. And I’ve let down the people who pledged money.
Never will London see itself protected by an army of highly-trained chinchillas. And that’s on me.
However, Sir Ian’s campaign continues. There will be more blog posts, more videos, more revelations, and some very special guests. However, my name (and his face) won’t be on the ballot.
Not that they won’t be on one soon.
After all, we did raise enough to stand as an MP. Twice over.
And Sir Ian has given a solemn pledge not to stand against Nick Clegg in Sheffield Hallam in 2015…
Here is the latest behind-the scenes video from the campaign.
And here’s the campaign video for those who may have missed that last week…
Dear Mr & Mrs Cameron,
Why did you never take the time to teach your child basic morality?
As a young man, he was in a gang that regularly smashed up private property. We know that you were absent parents who left your child to be brought up by a school rather than taking responsibility for his behaviour yourselves. The fact that he became a delinquent with no sense of respect for the property of others can only reflect that fact that you are terrible, lazy human beings who failed even in teaching your children the difference between right and wrong. I can only assume that his contempt for the small business owners of Oxford is indicative of his wider values.
Even worse, your neglect led him to fall in with a bad crowd. He became best friends with a young man who set fire to buildings for fun. And others:
There’s Michael Gove, whose wet-lipped rage was palpable on Newsnight last night. This is the Michael Gove who confused one of his houses with another of his houses in order to avail himself of £7,000 of the taxpayers’ money to which he was not entitled (or £13,000, depending on which house you think was which).
Or Hazel Blears, who was interviewed in full bristling peahen mode for almost all of last night. She once forgot which house she lived in, and benefited to the tune of £18,000. At the time she said it would take her reputation years to recover. Unfortunately not.
But, of course, this is different. This is just understandable confusion over the rules of how many houses you are meant to have as an MP. This doesn’t show the naked greed of people stealing plasma tellies.
Unless you’re Gerald Kaufman, who broke parliamentary rules to get £8,000 worth of 40-inch, flat screen, Bang and Olufsen TV out of the taxpayer.
Or Ed Vaizey, who got £2,000 in antique furniture ‘delivered to the wrong address’. Which is fortunate, because had that been the address they were intended for, that would have been fraud.
Or Jeremy Hunt, who broke the rules to the tune of almost £20,000 on one property and £2,000 on another. But it’s all right, because he agreed to pay half of the money back. Not the full amount, it would be absurd to expect him to pay back the entire sum that he took and to which he was not entitled. No, we’ll settle for half. And, as in any other field, what might have been considered embezzlement of £22,000 is overlooked. We know, after all, that David Cameron likes to give people second chances.
Fortunately, we have the Met Police to look after us. We’ll ignore the fact that two of its senior officers have had to resign in the last six weeks amid suspicions of widespread corruption within the force.
We’ll ignore Andy Hayman, who went for champagne dinners with those he was meant to be investigating, and then joined the company on leaving the Met.
Of course, Mr and Mrs Cameron, your son is right. There are parts of society that are not just broken, they are sick. Riddled with disease from top to bottom.
Just let me be clear about this (It’s a good phrase, Mr and Mrs Cameron, and one I looted from every sentence your son utters, just as he looted it from Tony Blair), I am not justifying or minimising in any way what has been done by the looters over the last few nights. What I am doing, however, is expressing shock and dismay that your son and his friends feel themselves in any way to be guardians of morality in this country.
Can they really, as 650 people who have shown themselves to be venal pygmies, moral dwarves at every opportunity over the last 20 years, bleat at others about ‘criminality’. Those who decided that when they broke the rules (the rules they themselves set) they, on the whole wouldn’t face the consequences of their actions?
Are they really surprised that this country’s culture is swamped in greed, in the acquisition of material things, in a lust for consumer goods of the most base kind? Really?
Let’s have a think back: cash-for-questions; Bernie Ecclestone; cash-for-access; Mandelson’s mortgage; the Hinduja passports; Blunkett’s alleged insider trading (and, by the way, when someone has had to resign in disgrace twice can we stop having them on television as a commentator, please?); the meetings on the yachts of oligarchs; the drafting of the Digital Economy Act with Lucian Grange; Byers’, Hewitt’s & Hoon’s desperation to prostitute themselves and their positions; the fact that Andrew Lansley (in charge of NHS reforms) has a wife who gives lobbying advice to the very companies hoping to benefit from the NHS reforms. And that list didn’t even take me very long to think of.
Our politicians are for sale and they do not care who knows it.
Oh yes, and then there’s the expenses thing. Widescale abuse of the very systems they designed, almost all of them grasping what they could while they remained MPs, to build their nest egg for the future at the public’s expense. They even now whine on Twitter about having their expenses claims for getting back to Parliament while much of the country is on fire subject to any examination. True public servants.
The last few days have revealed some truths, and some heartening truths. The fact that the #riotcleanup crews had organised themselves before David Cameron even made time for a public statement is heartening. The fact that local communities came together to keep their neighbourhoods safe when the police failed is heartening. The fact that there were peace vigils being organised (even as the police tried to dissuade people) is heartening.
There is hope for this country. But we must stop looking upwards for it. The politicians are the ones leading the charge into the gutter.
David Cameron was entirely right when he said: “It is a complete lack of responsibility in parts of our society, people allowed to think that the world owes them something, that their rights outweigh their responsibilities, and that their actions do not have consequences.”
He was more right than he knew.
And I blame the parents.
*** EDIT – I have added a hyperlink to a Bullingdon article after a request for context from an American reader. I have also added the sentence about Nick Clegg as this was brought to my attention in the comments and it fits in too nicely to leave out. That’s the way I edited it at 18:38 on the 11th August, 2011 ***
***EDIT 2 – I’ve split the comments into pages as, although there were some great discussions going on in them, there were more than 500 and the page was taking *forever* to load for some people, and not loading at all for others. I would encourage everyone to have a poke around in the comments, as many questions and points have been covered, and there are some great comments. Apologies if it looks like your comment has disappeared. ***
- London riots: David Cameron approves water cannon (telegraph.co.uk)