Two political performers surprised last week, one for the better and one for poorer. Ed Milliband must have read my last post Reading is not communicating. Or perhaps he remembered that David “no notes” Cameron changed his fortunes with the memorable address in Blackpool that won him the Tory leadership.
His 65 minute speech lacked substance and if he really wants to bring “nation” alive he should look at Matin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’. However deciding to deliver the whole thing from memory, with no notes to hand, was a masterstroke. Not reading freed him up to be himself, to be more natural in his body language and uninhibited, letting his feelings and his passion show. The response has been dramatic. He is, at last, seen as a leader.
By total contrast, President Obama, leader of the most powerful country in the world, was seen as a loser the moment he set foot on the stage to debate with Romney. He seemed unaware that first impressions count looking listless and dejected, clearly wanting to be somewhere else. It got worse as he constantly looked down at his feet rather than confront his opponent.
The other contrast was in the preparation. One prepared, the other didn’t. Milliband realised he needed to make a different impact and worked at making it happen, not least the impressive memorising of his entire speech, rehearsing several times. Obama must have known that TV debates can be lost on looks (Nixon/Kennedy!) but was not prepared and his body language let him down. Apparently, like Nixon, he won the radio audience. Little consolation for a tv debate.