Empowering the Freelance Economy

Where have all the slow-clap political speeches gone?

Slow Clap Gif source: The official Giphy page for The Office on Peacock.
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Katherine Steiner-Dicks contemplates the downfall of the inspirational political speech and how it reflects today’s lack of political leadership for the self-employed

Remember when politicians were quoted for more than campaign gaffes, Twitter/X spats and baseball cap-embossed campaign slogans? When their words resonated, stirred the soul, or maybe even made you laugh and not at their expense (courtesy of Prime Minister’s Question Time or an off-the-cuff interview). Those days seem to have expired.

The cynic in me wants to initially point the finger at the speechwriters. Surely, a Churchill or a Kennedy couldn’t have been reduced to uttering blandisms like “We need to come together as a nation” or “These are challenging times.”

Perhaps speechwriters today are shackled by a culture of focus groups and pre-tested messaging. They play it so safe, yet meaningless, much like traffic cones in a lane on the M25. So, no room for a JFK “Ask not what your country can do for you” when the focus is on avoiding any potentially offensive metaphors.

On the other hand, maybe today’s politicians are the problem. They’re simply not that inspired by mass citizen economic hardship or a war in Europe and the Middle East. Perhaps they view quotable speeches as a reputational risk, a hurdle they’d rather not jump before the lucrative post-government book deal.

Politicians who put pen to paper: are they a dying breed?

While Prime Minister Winston Churchill did pen many of his speeches, he was not against taking tips from government departments or influences from newspaper editors, both sources leading him to “tone down or adjust his speeches,” according to author and University of Exeter professor Richard Toye.

For instance, Churchill’s June 1940 speech “We shall fight them on the beaches, we shall fight on the landings grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender,” was in fact influenced by William Philip Simms, the pro-British foreign editor of the influential Scripps-Howard chain of American newspapers.

The optimist might suggest that with the rise of social media, quotable soundbites have been replaced by a constant stream of bite-sized pronouncements. But let’s be honest, most of those 280 characters are forgettable before you’ve even finished scrolling.

So, who’s to blame for today’s blah political speeches?

The speechwriters churning out verbal oatmeal, or the politicians who struggle to string together an inspiring sentence without a teleprompter or corporate strategist? Truth is, it’s probably a bit of both thanks to cancel culture.

The lack of memorable speeches is a symptom of a larger issue. Politics has become a game of point-scoring and negativity, where nuance and wit are sacrificed at the altar of the next viral outrage. Just the other day US President Biden in an Atlanta campaign speech used previous quotes said by running Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump to win a few laughs. Do you blame him? It’s an easy target.

Why do we need those slow-clap moments?

The UK’s self-employed and wider freelance economy across the pond and globe need leading voices to lift their spirits, understand their pain and do something about it. Maybe someday soon, a politician (or risk-taking speechwriter with some grit and wit) will emerge and break the curse. Campaign trails will be filled with American film-inspired slow clap moments. Until then, we’re left with the political equivalent of either beige paint: forgettable, and uninspiring or cringe-worthy MAGA (Make America Great Again) tat courtesy of the Trump store.

Today’s political quotes: check a few out here:

Quiz: Who said it – Rishi Sunak or David Brent? | indy100

The 75 most ridiculous Trump quotes: the best Donald Trump quotes revealed (shortlist.com)

This Conservative Texan publication has published this: Best Joe Biden Quotes – The Texas Horn

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