Saturday 13 April 2024

The Leaders Speeches

Rishi Sunak's leader's speech at the 2023 Conservative Conference in Manchester lasted over an hour, but in all that time he only mentioned England once.

Family matters, and as proud Conservatives we should never be afraid to say that. And there's another family that matters to us all, our family of nations: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Today, our Union is the strongest it has been in a quarter of a century. The forces of separatism are in retreat across our country.

The word 'country' (our country/the country/this country) is used 57 times in Sunak's conference speech, irrespective of whether he is talking about England-only policy or UK-wide policy.

For example, he doesn't mention England when talking about the 'Advanced British Standard' (which despite its name is an England-only qualification).

A quarter of our children leave education without the basic literacy and numeracy they need to fulfil their potential. And our students study too narrow a range of subjects. Today, I am changing all of that, pulling one of the biggest levers we have to change the direction of our country. We will introduce the new rigorous, knowledge-rich Advanced British Standard, which will bring together A-Levels and T-Levels into a new, single qualification for our school leavers.

Sunak mentions Britain in relation to infrastructure but doesn't mention England in relation to the NHS, cancer care and education.

We will give Britain the infrastructure it needs, protect the long-term future of our NHS and cut cancer deaths by a quarter and create the best education system in the Western world, to set our children up for the opportunities of the future.

A week later, in his leader's speech from Liverpool, Keir Starmer remarked that people like Rishi Sunak 'cannot see the country before them'. If that country is England, then we're inclined to agree. But did Starmer do any better? No, Starmer didn't mention England once. Starmer talked about Labour policy for England (for example the pledge to build 1.5M homes) but he talked of 'Britain' and 'the country' rather than England:

'So it’s time to get Britain building again. It’s time to build one and half million new homes across the country.'

The fascinating thing about their reluctance to mention England is that the BBC has to get creative and insert the word 'England' for the benefit of a public that may not know which policies apply where.

The Labour leader said he would "bulldoze through" the planning system in England if his party wins power.


Sir Keir promised to accelerate building on unused urban land to create the "next generation of new towns" near English cities, echoing those built by the first Labour government after World War Two.

It wasn't specified by Starmer that it would be England's planning laws he would be bulldozing or that the new towns would be near English cities. Only the words 'Britain' and 'British' were used. So why is the BBC putting words (or two words: England and English) into Starmer's mouth? Well, unlike Westminster politicians, the BBC has a duty to 'locate the story':

When our UK audiences are affected differently by a story or issue we are reporting we should make it clear. We should properly and proportionately label content that has limited applicability across the UK.

In other words, the BBC has a duty to inform the public about which parts of the UK the policies and pledges of politicians apply to. It is ludicrous that politicians themselves are not required to locate the story (or policy) like the BBC is.



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