The Third Leader: Speech impediment

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The Independent Online

I have noticed, you see, that there are certain "don'ts". Reading out a shopping list, for example, and then saying "Oh, sorry, wrong piece of paper", hasn't really worked for me since my Best Man turn in 1974, and even that speech was slightly marred by the reaction of the bride's mother to the one about the zebra and the telegraph pole.

My lesson was learnt; it's still not appreciated everywhere, though: I've lost count of the times subsequently that I've heard a speaker, for some unknown reason, throw in an entirely unrelated joke in dubious taste; and that's just Ann Winterton. Is this, I wonder, a peculiarly British thing? Perhaps M. Chirac could enlighten us.

Which leads me to my next "don't": don't forget that whatever you say may be taken down and used against you. Particularly if, like Glenys Kinnock, you're going to be rude about Delia Smith, or if, like Donald Findlay, the Scottish lawyer, last month, you're going to be rude about the Pope. Just to be on the safe side, you should add to that list Nelson Mandela, Lord Coe, and Charles Clarke.

Anyone seeking further guidance should apply to the Third Leader Department: we can supply safe speeches for most occasions; you can judge the standard by my current Best Man opener: "Ladies and gentlemen, this is a very emotional occasion. Even the cake is in tiers." Thank you!