Oratory not dead – says political pundit, Torrance

ORATORY is far from dead in the ‘age of the soundbite’, according to Scots writer, journalist and broadcaster, David Torrance.

Indeed – says Torrance, who was appearing at the Edinburgh International Book Festival – it may now have an even greater role to play in politics than before, in the digital era of 24-hour rolling news and YouTube.

He also yesterday told his festival that the London media and ‘Westminster village’ just “did not get the instinctive element of Scottish nationalism”.

Torrance, who has established himself at the forefront of Scotland’s political commentators through a series of books, including ‘Great Scottish Speeches’ and his updated biography, ‘Salmond: Up Against the Odds’, with Brian Taylor, BBC Scotland’s political editor.

Asked if the art of oratory was dead, Torrance said: “If anything, political speeches are more important. In the ’70s and ’80s, you might only get 20 seconds of a speech on TV, but now – with 24-hour news – they get covered live and you can also look at them on YouTube.”

Torrance cited the case of David Cameron winning the Tory leadership seven years ago.

“When I arrived at the [Tory party annual] conference, David Davies was way out in front as favourite to win the leadership contest but, three days later, in one hour, David Cameron turned it around and came from behind to win it with his now famous speech conducted without notes.”

Torrance, who now splits his time between Edinburgh and London, said the London media and ‘Westminster village’ understood Scottish nationalism in political and strategic terms but struggled with what he called the “instinctive element”.

‘With the economy, the Euro, globalisation…they can’t understand it is a priority. They don’t get the instinctive element. In many cases, nationalism is not coherent or well-thought through but I have a lot of friends for whom it is instinct.”