Major to change speaking style: Prime Minister plans return to off-the-cuff 'soapbox' speeches to smaller audiences

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Indy Politics
AS JOHN MAJOR'S leadership came under renewed attack, the Prime Minister was planning to recover some of the success of his general election campaign by changing his style of speech-making.

Worried at criticism of his flat delivery - he is lampooned as a grey man in the television programme Spitting Image - Mr Major is trying to enliven speeches by abandoning prepared texts and speaking more off the cuff to smaller audiences. The informal approach was judged a success when it was tried by Mr Major in the National Eisteddfod hall in Llangollen, for the Tory party's Welsh conference.

Encouraged by that performance, Mr Major plans to abandon the use of high-tech speech-making equipment, such as the auto-queue device, which Baroness Thatcher mastered, but which Mr Major believes cuts him off from his audience. He is returning to the tried and tested traditional method of village hall orators - speaking from notes, sometimes prepared on the way to the engagement.

Sir Norman Fowler, the party chairman, is preparing informal meetings around the country to be fitted into the Prime Minister's schedule in the second half of the year.

'He did extremely well in Wales. It didn't come as any great surprise to those who have seen him speaking at private meetings, after dinner, but he is contemplating doing more of that,' a party source said.

But the symbol of his election campaign - the soapbox - will not be brought out of retirement until the next election. Mr Major took out the soapbox and a megaphone in Chester on 1 April, last year, on the 17th day of the campaign when poll ratings showed the Tories were almost certain to lose the election.

He told the crowd: 'Wherever I go between now and 9 April, this soapbox will come with me.' It was a packing case and is stored at the Tory headquarters in Smith Square.