"It might be a bit messy. But it will be me." With this, rather sick-making apologia, David Cameron launched into a conference speech which so impressed the reporters that they forgot all their previous misgivings about Cameron and decided that he might after all be able to lead the Tories to victory in an election.
The art of successful speech-making is to give your listeners the impression that you are speaking off the cuff when in fact every line, every joke, even every hesitation, has been carefully rehearsed beforehand.
One of the funniest speech-makers I have heard is Colin Dexter, author of the Inspector Morse stories. I have listened to him with great pleasure on several occasions. Like all of us, he tends to tell the same old jokes, but each time he brilliantly gives the impression that they have only just occurred to him and that he is struggling to recall the details.
By apologising in advance for possible messiness, Cameron is conning his listeners into thinking his remarks will be spontaneous and therefore more genuine, more heartfelt than the carefully scripted speeches read off the autocue by the likes of Gordon Brown or David Miliband. It worked like a dream this week at Blackpool, just as it did two years ago when Cameron, until then virtually unknown, became the Tory leader overnight on the strength of a single speech, again unscripted and again seemingly spontaneous and sincere.
People have short memories these days. That earlier speech is forgotten and this week's one will soon be.
As for those who say that the bad days of spin and stage management are over, the important things to remember about the Labour and Conservative parties is, first, that David Cameron's only experience outside politics was working as a PR man for a downmarket commercial TV company and, second, that Gordon Brown's wife Sarah was a very professional and successful PR woman.
Diana, Dodi, and the all-seeing eye
It will be interesting to see how long the tabloid press manages to reheat the Princess Diana story for its readers. So far, despite the sensational headlines, the supposedly hitherto unpublished photographs, and the talk of unanswered questions, precisely nothing new has been revealed at the inquest.
As far as those photographs are concerned, most of them taken by CCTV cameras, the only really interesting questions not only unanswered but also unasked are why there are so many of them, and why do there appear to have been CCTV cameras at every corner of the Ritz Hotel – even in the lift. The answer could have something to do with the bizarre personal habits of the Ritz's owner, Mohamed al-Fayed. Like many of his kind, he is obsessed by security and likes to surround himself with bodyguards and ex-policemen.
But Fayed also has a passion for bugging his employees, recording their telephone conversations and even secretly filming them. As her affair with Dodi blossomed, Diana herself had been warned by the magazine Vanity Fair, which Fayed was then suing for libel, that she should beware the possibility that Fayed might be bugging her telephone calls and even filming her movements. Could it be that one reason why the couple chose not to stay at the Ritz on the fateful night was simply to escape the ubiquitous CCTV cameras that Fayed had installed?
Dear old Ned – our man at a wake
For 10 years or so, Ned Sherrin, whose death was reported this week, had been writing reviews of memorial services for my magazine The Oldie. He was one of the few contributors still to send in his articles in longhand.
Ned got the job mainly because he was already a compulsive attendee at memorial services. I think perhaps he had discovered that there is almost always a good party afterwards for which you don't require an invitation.
As the obituaries have pointed out, Ned Sherrin was really the inventor of television satire in 1962 with his famous programme That Was the Week That Was. Apart from the provocative nature of the political sketches, what seems astonishing is that the programme, which often ran for over an hour, went out live.
You can't imagine that happening nowadays.Reuse content