Page:Modern Parliamentary Eloquence.djvu/23

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15
Modern Parliamentary Eloquence

condenses it all into a few high-flavoured sentences, with the personal element and the mise-en-scene thrown in as well?[1]

Effect of the platform.Still more has the growth of platform speaking detracted from the vogue of Parliamentary eloquence. While it is the latter that still unlocks the door to Ministerial office, it is the platform which makes or unmakes leaders, and decides the fortunes of parties. No Parliamentary reputation, however great, will avail in the future to secure for a statesman the confidence of his party or the support of the nation unless it is confirmed by the verdict of the platform. It is there that the shrillest war-cries are uttered; there that the gauge of oratorical combat is thrown down. Lord Randolph Churchill would never have become leader of the House of Commons but for his platform triumphs. Mr. Lloyd George reserves the master-pieces of his peculiar style for Limehouse, Newcastle, and Swindon.

Nature of platform oratory.It may be retorted that while these conditions operate to the depreciation of Parliamentary eloquence, they at the same time create a new standard and type of oratory, viz., that of the public meeting. This is undoubtedly the case, and the waning of one form of the art is accompanied, if it is not counterbalanced, by the growth of another. But that it is a different type, obeying different laws, and appealing to different emotions, is abundantly clear, if only because some of the most accomplished exponents of one style fail miserably in the other. Consider the main points of difference. On the platform the orator is addressing, as a rule and in the main, the members of his own political party: they have come to hear him perform, he is the star figure of the scene; he is free from interruption save such as springs from the often useful interjections of scattered opponents, or the undiscriminating enthusiasm of friends.

  1. This is an entirely modern creation. The sentiments of our forefathers towards the sketch-writer may be inferred from the speech of the courtly Windham in December, 1798. "What," he asked, "was to become of the dignity of the House, if the manners and gestures and tone and action of each member were to be subject to the licence, the abuse, the ribaldry of newspapers?"