How To Be A Political Speechwriter: Part One.

So, what do you do when everything – hair, face, balls, mind – just starts to drift away from you? You hold onto your career, that’s what. Or, you resurrect your career as a political speechwriter. Yesterday, that’s what I did. Sort of. I told my hair, face, balls and mind to take a walk and focused on becoming a political speechwriter again. How did I do that? I wrote the following email, that’s how.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

To: All 650 MPs in the UK

From: Pitching the World

Subject: Chancing my arm

Dear MP,

I’m 36 and live in my nan’s dining room. This is not as strange as it sounds, but it almost is. I drink and smoke too much and barely make a living. Oh I work and occasionally get money for it, but calling it a ‘living’ seems both a bit grand and a bit misleading. That’s the bad stuff – some of it, at least. Now the good stuff: I’m a former political speechwriter looking to lose the ‘former’ tag and thought you might be able to help.

My political speech writing career to date has been predominantly confined to the Caribbean. Please scroll down at the bottom of this email for an example of the sort of work I did. The speech I’ve included was the first I’d ever written and was widely regarded as the reason the candidate won his seat (from the leader of the opposition). Bar working as a speechwriter, I’ve worked as a journalist (Guardian, Independent, Other) and had a long stint working in the field of behaviour change. Highlights include conducting research and writing reports for the US government, the FCO and the Singaporean Ministry of Defence. I was also credited with conducting the initial, preparatory research for Andrew Mackay and Steve Tatham’s recent book, ‘Behavioural Conflict: Why Understanding People and Their Motives Will Prove Decisive in Future Conflict.’

So I know my stuff, a bit. But I’m in a hole, a lot. What are the chances of someone like me working for someone like you? More specifically, what are my chances of helping you or your team out with speech writing duties on a freelance basis? I see my life headed in one of two ways: down one path lies black outs, angry phone calls from creditors and more sleeping in my nan’s dining room; down the other lies writing life-changing speeches and becoming a reasonable member of society again. Please help me pick the right path. (That’s the second one, by the way.)

Please do let me know if you are able to help, preferably not with one of those, ‘Your details have been kept on file, and should anything arise in the future…’ type emails, unless you really mean it. Regardless, many thanks for reading this email.

With very best wishes,

Steve

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

What do you think? More importantly, perhaps, what did they think? Well, I’ve only got as far as emailing 300-odd of them so far. Have you ever tried emailing 300-odd MPs? You really shouldn’t. It makes you go a bit tonto. You send off an email and then put in the next MP’s email address and you do that one or two hundred times and you sit in your Nan’s living room with a soporific darts match going on in the background and you drink whisky and hanker after cigarettes and write ‘Parliament’ so many times in an email address that it begins to lose all meaning. That’s what happens.

You may start to feel like this:

Anyway, you do get back encouraging replies. You get back stuff like this:

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

To: Pitching the World

From: Tim Farron

Subject: Chancing my arm

Hello Steven

The honest answer is that I haven’t got any vacancies at present, and most of my team is based up in Cumbria.

I tend to write my own speeches – which means I have a reasonable appreciation of the craft and having looked through your snippets below I can see why you have been successful.

I’m sorry I cant be of any help to you now, but I do wish you every success.  The direct approach is almost always the right one, so you deserve to get somewhere.

Take care

Tim (farron)

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

And this:

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

To: Pitching the World

From: Tobias Ellwood

Subject: Chancing my arm

Dear Mr [redacted]

Tobias thanks you for your email to him and other MPs offering your services as a speechwriter and has asked me to reply on his behalf.

Tobias would be very happy to meet with you at one of his surgeries, but asked me to stress that he is most unlikely to require the services of a speechwriter at the present time.

If you wish to meet with Tobias an appointment can be made by calling the Association office on 01202 397 047 Monday – Friday 9;30 – 13:00

Many thanks for taking the time to contact Tobias and for offering your services.

Yours sincerely,

Steve (on behalf  of Tobias Ellwood)

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Or this:

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

To: Pitching the World

From: Sir Roger Gale

Subject: Chancing my arm

Dear Steve,

First, I appreciate the plight which you describe with great candour. Second, I appreciate the initiative that you have taken in writing to me.

That said, I am sadly not in a position to assist you myself: I do not maintain any staff in the House myself (all of my small team are based in Birchington in Kent), I use the excellent Library research services and have never understood why some colleagues find it necessary to employ batteries of “researchers” and as a former journalist myself I prepare speaking notes myself and am old-fashioned enough not to read written speeches (which I am so myopic that I could not deliver anyway!)

So what can we do for you?  There are two MPs representing Bournemouth – Conor Burns (West) and Tobias Ellwood (East). I don`t know if you have been in touch with either of them but if not I am more than willing to pass your e-mail to them in case either could use your services.

Then there is Conservative Campaign Headquarters. I do not know who, there, deals with this kind of thing but on the basis that it is usually worth starting at the top the Chairman is Baroness Warsi who you can write to at the House of Lords.

I don`t do the meaningless “I`ll keep your details on file” thing but if I get any other ideas or if I hear of anyone that might be able to use your help I will let you know.

The very best of luck – and regards to your long-suffering Mother!

Sir Roger Gale, MP

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

And you also get replies from Sir Peter Bottomley, who is probably the coolest man on the planet.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

To: Pitching the World

From: Sir Peter Bottomley

Subject: Chancing my arm

Good luck with your arm.

When I stopped service as a minister in Northern Ireland, one permanent secretary said to his colleagues that they should be grateful that there was not a recorded occasion when I delivered a prepared speech.

It is not what I do so the simple direct answer is that your clear skill would be wasted on me.

Peter B

Here is a friendly tip: how about always including your contact telephone number in an email?

Here is another: try writing sample apparently serious speeches for named public individuals before submitting them to satirical radio programmes.

If it works, it could be fun?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Shortly after adopting Sir Peter’s splendid advice I got a phone call from Glyn Davies, MP for Monmouthshire, and he told me how lovely he found my letter and how unlovely it was that he couldn’t employ me. He urged me to carry on. Should I be encouraged? Should I email the remaining 300 and something MPs offering my services whilst going mad drinking whisky and watching darts in my Nan’s living room or is it a waste of time? I’d appreciate, as ever, your input.

Part Two of this thrilling series will be up before or on the weekend. I will include other replies and may even include the speech I sent to the MPs.

 

About these ads

31 responses to “How To Be A Political Speechwriter: Part One.

  1. “I appreciate the plight which you describe with great candour” – that may be the best 10 words I’ve ever read. (Sorry.) I’ve no idea who Sir Roger Gale is, but he sounds ace.

    Also: this is perhaps your best idea yet.

  2. I enjoyed this post more than any other – really loved it.

    Also, was reading about the Stoic Marcus Aurelius and it reminded me of you. It’s been too long.

    x

  3. Fascinating reading. Who knew MPs were actually human? Do you think you could write a speech for the Ed Miller Band that actually kept people awake? It’s a challenge, but surely not beyond your talents. More please.
    Mya x

  4. I like that you named your doodle John. Made me cry a little in the office.

  5. Wish I had an office. Actually, I don’t really. I named John after my step father who was called John. I don’t know if you needed those last four words.

  6. Carry on. Got something better to do?

  7. Taking encouragement from those replies is like taking heart from a sign on one bank of the Limpopo that reads – Cross Here, The Crocs Have Just Had Lunch.
    However, Peter Bottomley seems to offer good advice re. writing serious stuff for satire on the radio.

  8. Top post!

  9. Thanks Ray. Tell your dad I’ve got some further thoughts on Miss Taylor and Sunderland next time you see him.

  10. Am loving Peter B’s email. Steve, this is a frigging spanking idea. Gotta stick with it, my nan-bothering cyberchum

  11. Hahah, this is great, reminds you that some of them are actually reasonably human (that or the robot-lizard-kings have improved their programmng).

  12. Thank Matt. Yes, I’ve been pleasantly surprised so far, and it’s still early days. It is early days, isn’t it?

  13. Oldbloke’s right. Satire for radio might well be the way ahead. You’d be frigging brilliant at it. What you reckon, Steve?
    BTW, do I sound too chipper and encouraging all the time? I don’t think I tell you to fuck off often enough. Do you want me to?

  14. C-Pipe: I believe you jokingly called me a ‘complete and utter fucker’ in an email once which I rather liked. I’m a bit too tender for fucks offs today; perhaps you can tell me to fuck off tomorrow. I like the encouragement, however – shit like that genuinely keeps me going.

  15. Fuck off. Is it tomorrow yet?

    Thought I would get it over and done with – now anything horrible that is said to you today, you can just shrug off…like water off a ducks back (why WHY do I love/hate that saying?) xx

  16. Oh and doodle John is so cute, I just want to pick him up and put him in my handbag. I could pull him out later when I am bored and watch him dance across my desk. Would love to see him waltz with my tipex pen.

  17. I am very much behind you. And not in a gay way. Not overtly gay at least. Good luck, old fruit.

  18. I’m behind you too, K-Dog. And not in a gay way. Not overtly gay, at least. Good luck, old goat.
    PS PLEASE STOP APING MY STYLE

  19. Pingback: Pitching the World | UK Speechwriters' Guild

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s