Keir Starmer’s own speechwriter admitted that last week’s party conference speech lasted far too long – but insisted the enthusiastic applause from the audience was to blame.
Speechwriter Philip Collins, who wrote Starmer’s address to party loyalists in Brighton, told POLITICO’s Westminster Insider podcast that Starmer’s 90-minute delivery had “absolutely” taken too long, and admitted that some passages were “a bit baggy” and even “boring”. . “
But Collins – a former Tony Blair editor – said he “loved” the poetry and the many very personal sections of the speech, and added that Starmer “deserved credit” for the way he dealt with heckling. repeated from the crowd.
“It would not have been professional not to be prepared [for hecklers]”Collins said.”[But] you can’t be sure what the intervention is, or what sort of thing would be the appropriate response. So a lot depends on the person up there on the podium. I always think [Starmer] deserves credit for managing it well, because it is not easy.
Collins said the overwhelmingly positive crowd response to the array of feedback Starmer prepared had “lengthened” the speech far beyond what was expected.
“He was getting standing ovations for things that were just basically boring lines that were supposed to take you to the next stage of the speech,” Collins said. “And it got ridiculous. So I think he got 20 standing ovations or something, and clapped for all kinds of things, which really lengthened the speech.
“He was thrilled because it was a real sense of the conference that helped him. But that meant the momentum was a bit lost, and then it took longer to get through than you ever thought. In actual word count, it wasn’t even a particularly long speech. It’s just that it took so long because the theater took over.
Collins said his favorite part of the speech was the ending, which was inspired by Seamus Heaney’s poem, “Digging”.
“I really liked it because it was really unconventional,” he said. “Instead of ending with a huge hustle and bustle of barnstorming, it ended with a sort of diminuendo.
“We came back to the four principles that had guided [Starmer’s] life – work, care, equality and security. “These are the tools of my trade, and with them I will work. And I loved it, because I liked the return of the idea of ”the tool”, which had been a theme throughout.
In contrast, Collins said some of the political discussions detailed in Starmer’s speech turned out to be less fruitful.
“It’s still the same songs,” he said. “The policy elements are very, very difficult to bring about. If you don’t include them, everyone will write that you have nothing to say, that you are empty. So you include them – knowing that probably everyone will be saying, ‘oh, that’s so boring when you get into all of this’
“So these bits, if I’m critical, could have been tighter, could have been compressed more. I think they were a bit long, a bit loose.
But he had scathing words for political journalists complaining about the 90-minute length of the speech.
“All these people who applaud all the time! I mean, that was obviously way too good, ”Collins said with a smile. “And so people enjoyed it way too much. And as a result, they detained these poor lobby journalists for half an hour longer than they thought they would. My heart is bleeding for them.