Speech of the Month, April 2022 - Angela Rayner

A lack of self-consciousness is the key to Angela Rayner's rousing rhetoric

Speech of the Month, April 2022 - Angela Rayner

I was baffled this month by the ‘Angela Rayner crosses and uncrosses her legs to distract Boris Johnson’ story that emerged in the Mail on Sunday If we’re to believe that Rayner’s doing a ‘Basic Instinct’ then don’t we need proof that she’s pitching up to the Commons sans smalls? This evidence hasn’t been brought to light and I’m in no doubt that Rayner buys her knickers – good sensible briefs, I reckon – from Ashton Market.

Anyway, given that nobody in public life has given a stand-out speech this month (I thought I’d save you the Pope’s Easter address) I decided that since Rayner has been so prominent and since she does give brainstorming speeches at conference, we’d look at one of those speeches and see what we can learn from her rhetorical approach. 

Check out the video below to get a flavour of her at her best. 

Face up to detractors

Although Rayner is addressing a Labour Party conference and therefore talking to friends – or as close to friends as politicians get – she is hugely aware that a TV audience outside the conference hall will see the best bits of her speech on the evening news, so she’s quick to explain why those who’d scoff at a woman who left school at 16 pregnant and without any qualifications being the Shadow Education Secretary are simple-minded snobs. And she makes her case for being the Shadow Education Secretary very well; only someone from her background who has pulled herself up thanks to Labour education policies can truly appreciate the value of education. 

Some speakers are nervous about facing up to detractors’ views; especially if they haven’t actually heard them being expressed but strongly suspect that, out of their earshot, they are being expressed. They might not want to bring up the issue because they fear they’ll look paranoid and / or lacking in confidence or they worry that they might bring attention to a question that wasn’t being asked. 

My view is that if you’ve got a suspicion that detractors are questioning your ideas or abilities, then you’re probably right. Gut instincts are rarely wrong. And if you have a colleague you trust, ask them, “Is it reasonable for me to suspect that some people are thinking X…” If your colleague says ‘Yes’, then you absolutely should face up to those naysayers. Do so politely, though. 

Get over your accent

Oh, if I only had £1 for every client who’s told me they hate their accent! 

Of course, it’s rarely the sound of their voice that they hate; it’s the fact that when they speak in public, they feel some listeners will consider them thick or coarse because they have an accent, and this feeling (inner demon) makes them self-conscious and want to disappear. Then, afterwards, they’re consumed with anger because they cared about the potential judgement of some stuck-up twit that might not even exist. 

So hats off to Angela for not feeling that her Stockport twang makes her less than; for not letting it silence her. She’s completely unself-conscious about it which bolsters her authenticity. Delivering her message is all she cares about – and rightly so. 

If you have an accent and sometimes don’t speak up because of it, think of Rayner – she’s a total accent hero. If, however, you worry that your accent makes your speech unclear, then this post will give you some tips on how to sound clear without changing any of your vowel sounds. 

Don’t dance to the boss’s tune

Rayner is quite unique among politicians and this is why the limelight follows her. She’s not a career politician, she’s not from a political family nor is she left-wing intelligentsia. In fact, there’s something very old school Labour about her, which in 2022 feels rare and novel.

Like your big Labour beasts of old, she never seems wary when giving her opinion. When asked a question, she rarely does the, ‘First I’d like to say…’ and empathises with whatever event has sparked the question before answering it. I like that. When politicians do the empathy preamble, I’m thinking, ‘Get on with it. Stop displaying niceness.’ 

In her conference speech, she was unwary when it came to quoting Tony Blair’s famous ‘Education, Education, Education’ soundbite. Daring to mention Blair’s name at a time when Corbyn was leader and determined to distance the party from all things New Labour demonstrates the staunch individual that she is; she’s someone who’s going to say what she wants to say, not what the boss wants to hear. 

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Five stars
“Although I am a lawyer, it's been a long time since I've given a speech. So when I was asked to give a talk at a fundraising event at which other presenters, some of whom were MPs and CEOs, would speak, I knew I needed some top-notch support. Emma was just that. She looked at my first draft and, politely, let me know how overwritten and meandering it was. She 'did surgery' on it and helped me find humorous moments so that it had tonal range. She helped me with delivery too; I had no idea how wobbly I was! I was nervous before I gave the speech but seconds in I actually began to enjoy it. And so many people came up to me afterwards and commented that mine was the best of the evening! I was so surprised, but very happy. Yet I know, they wouldn't have said that if it hadn't been for Emma's input. She's excellent.”

Samira Jarvis, Hale

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