Friday 20 December 2019

Boris Johnson's voice.

Popular performing arts in theatre, stand-up comedy, spoken word and the like, mostly rely on a particular kind of 'vocal effort' and range. I know the differences between me chatting at home, talking on the phone, talking on the radio and performing to a thousand children in a theatre. Everyone who does any or all of these knows this too. Some of us study or teach it. Some of us pick it up as we go along, observing how others do it and imitating them.

Politicians find themselves in similar situations: speaking in public, on TV and radio and in the House of Commons. Some find the very performative side to speech-making a bit artificial and fear that as they 'put on' the speechifying voice that they sound false, so they try to find more 'authentic' ways of doing it.

I've watched several interviews with people who said that they had liked what they had seen of Boris Johnson. These haven't been public school educated people part of his milieu of toffs. I wonder is there some aspect of this that people watching TV, enjoying these popular performing arts techniques that they see in comedians, see something enjoyable in the way that Johnson performs. Did he find a way in the debating societies of Eton and Oxford the popular performative style that overlaps with the purely theatrical one?

Does this mean that politicians of the left should also work on developing this art? Or should they judge it as false and find another way of speaking in public, whether that's on TV, radio, public meetings or the House of Commons? Nicola Sturgeon for example has a style that is fluent, clear and assured that doesn't go in for any of the Johnson way of doing things. What other styles of speaking can be powerful without going down the Johnson route?