The message versus the messenger: the rise of Nigel Farage, Jeremy Corbyn and George Galloway

Posted on 1 July 2024  |   Leave a comment

Is politics about listening to what the candidate says?

Or is it about the character of the individual saying it?

As speechwriters we’re aiming to support our clients with the magic of eloquence.

Eloquence is when ideas are presented in language that resonates.

You listen and you agree wholeheartedly, you feel convinced, you tell yourself that the person is speaking your thoughts exactly.

That’s how many people react when they listen to Nigel Farage, George Galloway or Jeremy Corbyn.

It’s no coincidence that these ‘tall poppies’ find it difficult to fit into party structures.

They tend to attract the envy of their colleagues.

But if you take very little interest in politics, it’s hard to understand why these characters are so loathed by fellow politicians.

Most politicians don’t get to practise speaking their mind. They have to parrot the policies of the party they’re in.

If they go off message, they will not get promotion.

That’s why they’re often so dull. (And in retirement they mysteriously become human again).

It’s a hard question to answer, should you vote with the politician you agree with?

Or do you vote for a party that represents a much broader consensus?

Just because you’ve got the ability to make a dramatic speech, doesn’t mean you’ll be good at the mundane business of leading a team that has to enact your policies.

Most people thought Nigel Farage had given up politics.

So it was a surprise to see him return to prominence during the UK General Election Campaign in 2024.

I was intrigued to find out more about him. I picked up a book written by the journalist Michael Crick.

It’s called One Party After Another, The Disruptive Life of Nigel Farage.

He can connect with ordinary people because he’s had years of practising ‘retail’ politics – broadcasting, talking to people, making speeches.

The domination of politics by university graduates has meant that these skills, which take years to master, are being lost in favour of a technocratic attitude to politics. All this emotive language shouldn’t be allowed, some of them say.

But the power of the message comes out of the experience of politicians like Galloway, Corbyn and Farage. They become accomplished linguists.

There is no doubt that people seem to be fed up with high levels of immigration, and Nigel Farage is very good at reflecting that in a language that people understand.

The worrying thing is what action can you take to reduce immigration, which will not at some point involve cruelty and violence?

The book explains how difficult it was to build and sustain UKIP because it was hard to keep the cranks and racists out.

But politics has always been the management of emotions above and below the belt. People with extreme views don’t disappear, they’re just not visible when they vote for the main parties.

Human beings tend to feel a mixture of emotions.

Above the belt we have hope, courage and openness, below the belt we have anger, fear and intolerance.

Too much hope, courage and openness and we’re bored. Too much anger, fear and intolerance and we’re disgusted.

Is not the job of a sophisticated politician to balance one with the other?

I had a weird experience of this at some local hustings. The atmosphere was heated. There was a pro-Palestinian demonstration outside. The protestors came inside and there was lots of jeering, boos and anger.

At the end of evening, however, I felt that it had been rather entertaining.

As an audience we’d got to discharge our emotions. Despite the wide variety of opinions in the room – many of which I disagreed with, it felt good to hear them expressed. I didn’t feel any enmity – in fact I felt some warmth for those who had taken part.

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