How come the script is mightier than the man?
Early on Friday 24th June 2016 it became clear that David Cameron had lost the UK referendum on EU membership, and at 8.15am he came to the podium in front of No 10 Downing Street to announce his resignation as prime minister.
Cameron brought with him not only his wife, Samantha, but also a loose-leaf binder – black, A4-size – in which the announcement he was about to make was written out for him in advance.
Whereas SamCam stood at a respectful distance from proceedings – positioned as a clearly visible presence, but the studio will have to cut to a different camera to get you in the frame, OK? – the Book of Dave took centre stage.
By his glances up and down towards the page, we knew he wasn’t improvising; this was no time for extemporising. Exactly as written, the speech was given. The prime minister’s words could almost have been voiced by an actor; indeed they were spoken by an actor – the prime minister himself.
Was it ever thus? Did they always come here ready to read out the one-I-made-earlier? I don’t believe they did.
Duly prepared, obvs. Minister, even the most accomplished public speaker would be unwise to dispense with notes sufficient to his intended remarks. But when exactly wasthe politician – statesman, even – reduced to the status of newsreader of news he is meant to be making?
Stock answer’s the media’s to blame. True that Downing Street is now an apron to theworld stage, a set-up for the cameras, where once it was…a street to call its own.
But it beggars belief that news itself dictates the script, the script, adherence to thescript. Today’s 24/7 news culture, not like yesteryear when journos were kind and gentle souls who’d overlook a minister’s unscripted gaffe – as if.
Perhaps the politicians’ script is really there to stop them looking down. Without thebenefit of these blinkers, if they were to gaze directly upon the vast distance between themselves and the little people on the ground, the ground itself would seem to come up to meet them, and they themselves could only be falling, falling…..until all they can do is shut their eyes and wait in vain for the world to come to a standstill.
Such is the parlous state of politicians so far removed from the people they don’t even know.