Hit & Run: Thanks for the memory

There is an indispensable skill needed to become a top Conservative politician. It's a surer route to the Shadow Cabinet than going to Eton, being a member of the Bullingdon Club or living in Notting Hill. It's the ability to speak without notes.

A fine example was David Cameron's speech to the Conservative Spring Conference at the weekend. He strode around the platform at Brighton, declaiming his philosophy. And not once did he look at a note; he didn't even, Sarah Palin-style, sneak a peek at a Biro scribble on the back of his hand. This man is clearly blessed either with a phenomenal memory, or an equally phenomenal ability to extemporise.

Where Cameron goes, his cohorts follow. Speaking without notes is fast becoming the modus operandi of the Shadow Cabinet. I recently watched the shadow Culture spokesman Jeremy Hunt address a conference; and he too delivered his address without a note, an autocue or a single prompt. So impressed was the audience that whispers went around the floor about this remarkable skill, much like the gasps that greet a circus performer.

And that is the danger of noteless speaking. The audience tends to see it as theatre, and be so impressed with the performance, that it doesn't always concentrate on what is being said. The lack of dependence on notes or autocue, and the freedom for movement and gesticulation that this gives, do make the speech more of a performance, and the speaker more of an actor. Which is ironic, because actors increasingly are autocue-dependent.

Take the recent night at the Baftas, where every single star presenting an award, read their scripted remarks slowly, deliberately and expressionlessly from an autocue. Robert Pattinson, Anna Kendrick, Matt Dillon, all people with (one assumes) something interesting to say and an interesting way of saying it, were reduced to reading a tribute scripted by a Bafta bureaucrat and devoid of personality. Our politicians are moving in the opposite direction, even if it seems to be a predominantly Tory skill. New Labour uses old delivery methods still. I applaud them for that. I'm sceptical about the trend for noteless speaking because it becomes a performance, even a spectacle and the real detail of policy can get lost.

Ok, no that's not the real reason I'm sceptical of it. I distrust it because I can't do it. Not for half an hour. How does one master such a skill? How does one speak seamlessly for 30 minutes or more without so much as a cue card? Who has been coaching the Shadow Cabinet in this life skill? David Lister

A tasty reason for eatin' whoopie

From their humble origins in the East-coast kitchens of their Amish creators, they have marched on America's glitziest boutique bakeries. And now, over-sugared, over-filled (with a devilish marshmallow butter icing), whoopie pies are over here. For a very brief moment yesterday afternoon, the first belt-straining delicacy to cross the Atlantic since the cupcake also invaded the airspace between my hand and my gob, where it was well received.

"They're good, aren't they?" says David Muniz, a sweet-toothed ex-pat and founder of London-based temple to American cake, Outsider Tart. "They're easy to hold and, sadly, that makes them easy to consume." He's not wrong, but what's with its funny name? Conceived decades ago by Amish housewives (whose farmer husbands apparently shouted "whoopie!" on discovering them in their lunchboxes) they are, simply, as Muniz puts it, "a cake sandwich with icing as the meat."

Outsider Tart sent two varieties – the classic chocolate with a marshmallow vanilla cream filling, which looks like an obese Oreo cookie (in a good way); and an oatmeal with cream cheese, which resembles a giant Fox's Ginger Crunch Cream.

Outsider's offerings are the authentic face of the whoopie rather than the flashier versions now being sold in fancy food halls. Harrods tops its whoopies with icing and glitter, a case of lily-gilding that would certainly raise Amish eyebrows.

Fans of whoopies, rustic or sparkly, can blame an Oprah Winfrey endorsement for sending these fistfuls of cake on course to conquer the globe. But if they rock up on a shelf near you, be warned – they pack a punch. "If you're worried I'd go for the oatmeal," Muniz says. "It requires more chewing and, as we all know, chewing burns calories." Simon Usborne

My life in Britain's 'angriest' borough

Apparently, I live in the angriest place in the country. A dense population, copious crime, drugs and high unemployment have, according to new research, made the London borough of Lambeth a rage epicentre. I live in the middle of it, in Brixton, and I'm not surprised. While there's heaps to love – it's vibrant, culturally diverse, has a brilliant market and many wonderful characters – anger is, indeed, everywhere. Simple things can get you going; the daily battle – through buggies, drug dealers, spitting men and pavement cyclists – to the Tube station (the only one I know to pipe out calming classical music), or the Post Office (average queue-time, half an hour, average punter, unhinged – last visit, a man offered to "punch my face in"). And it works both ways: when a Tennants Super-wielding man pawed a friend, worryingly, I threatened to kill him. I've also raged at crackheads (for sleeping on my doorstep), and yelled at a neighbour for pushing his girlfriend around. At least now I know I'm not mad (though I may be unwise) – it's just because I live in Lambeth. Kate Burt

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower