Rob Perks on Ann Widdecombe's Fox Hunting Speech
The Ann Widdecombe speech made in the House of Commons in 1997 is 90 years later, rather different. What we have here is a somewhat maverick, Conservative politician; if anything slightly out of step with the majority of her party on this particular debate about fox hunting and she’s debating in Parliament and in that sense it is rather different from both the Pankhurst and in fact from something like, say, the Martin Luther King public speech. In other words, she’s got to be short, she’s got to be quick, she’s got to be direct and in this case she’s typically outspoken. She’s really punching her points home with the emphasis on those key words and she’s using some of the great techniques that great speech writers use, which is repetition, humour (in this case humour with a sting) and she is also aiming very clearly at an audience. So she’s repeating the word “wrong”. She’s using humour with a bit of a sting in the tail by trying to switch roles and putting people on the side of the ‘hunted’ rather than the ‘hunter’ and she knows her audience - the reference to her curtains is a fantastic way of sort of bringing in a wider audience outside the Commons. So whilst it’s a debate within the Commons she is mindful, as any good politician is, of audience.
And I think this sums up really the key points to remember when writing a speech.
- First of all, clarity - you’ve got to have to have one or two or three keys points that you need to get across
- Brevity - keep it short, keep it focused, otherwise people lose interest
- Repetition; very effective – tell’em what you want them to hear, tell it them and tell it them again. And finally…
- Connection; use of humour - knowing your audience and making what you’re saying relevant to your audience.
Ann Widdecombe MP on Fox Hunting
My problem with hunting is not that I contest the right of farmers to practise pesticide. Hunting is a most ineffective pesticide. Its supporters have tried to have it both ways by saying that they do not kill too many foxes but also that they kill so many that it is a good pesticide. In fact, nine tenths of fox control is done by shooting, not hunting.
Hunting is not a pesticide, so we must ask what it is. It is cruelty. I am not against killing foxes or culling deer. I am against the chase, the cruelty involved in the prolonging the terror of a living, sentient being that is running for its life. They laugh at it, apparently. When the deer is running, can feel the hounds closing in and knows that its strength is not going to last, it is uproariously funny. If it is so funny, why do not those who favour hunting take a trip to Kenya and stand unprotected in a lion reserve and see if they enjoy the hunt? I admit that I might enjoy watching it. Prolongation of terror is wrong. Those who practise it when there are alternatives that are already widely practised do wrong. Yes, the scenes of a hunt are splendid, so splendid that they are all over my dining room curtains, but they are colourful scenes of olde England, and in olde England, not in modern Britain, they belong. [Interruption.]
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Hon. Members should not clap after a speech. It is not necessary.