Over a month into the new Parliament many MPs are writing and delivering their Maiden Speeches. I’ve had a few requests for help, so here’s a short list of things to consider and objectives to achieve when creating your first masterpiece.
GET IT DONE
Everyone gets to do one Maiden Speech before they make regular contributions so you should try to get through it swiftly and not let the understandable urge for perfection cause a long delay. On the bright side, you will get lots of support from colleagues and you shouldn’t have to face interventions or heckling.
PRAISE YOUR CONSTITUENCY
This is your opportunity to say some nice things about your constituency. There is good everywhere if you look hard enough. Try to make it more of a labour of love than a tourist board shopping list. Refer to places by name and make sure you pronounce them correctly.
It’s traditional, and courteous, to praise your predecessor even if they were tossed out by the voters on polling day. Perhaps there is something important they achieved in Parliament or even a good anecdote which highlights their warmth and intelligence. But time is limited so keep any stories snappy.
This is an opportunity to make yourself known to everyone and to lay down some markers about what you want to achieve during your term of office. You can highlight any areas of personal expertise that might be useful to The House.
CONTRIBUTE TO THE DEBATE
Your Maiden Speech will take place during a wider debate so you should try to make it relevant in that context. You can say how a piece of legislation or a proposed motion will benefit your constituents. Dovetailing the speech to the subject being discussed will give the Minister and other Members an opportunity to refer to your comments – hopefully in a positive way. It also provides good material for local media outlets.
IMPRESS THE WHIPS
Every debate is closely watched by the whips. There will be at least one in the chamber making notes and trying to manage the business. Those notes will collect against your name and are considered during reshuffles where competence and loyalty are rewarded. It’s never too early to start making a good impression.
If you can refer to the contributions from other Members it demonstrates that you have been listening to the debate and you value their views. Politics is an intensely competitive business so it is good to gather people to your side. Everyone stumbles at some time and you want colleagues helping you to your feet rather than kicking you when you are down. In the longer term you are going to need their votes to attain some positions – ultimately including Party Leader or Speaker.
BUILD A REPUTATION IN THE CHAMBER
Some politicians achieve considerable respect for their contributions to debate – often across party boundaries. A memorable Maiden Speech will set the standard so it is worth the effort of preparation. This is one of those instances where a good six minute speech can do more for your reputation than months of campaigning or casework. The Chamber provides some great opportunities and you should grasp them whenever you can.
Your Maiden Speech should provide some material for press releases so don’t forget to chase up media opportunities after you sit down. A particularly good performance can even be clipped and broadcast on your website or more widely. You want to squeeze every last drop of juice out of this peach.
I am often asked for help with speeches and in politics a good performance can really boost your career, so contact me for a free consultation if you think I can help.