For example when a Prime Minister delivers a speech are there any circumstances when the minister wrote the speech him/herself?

How about the first speech of a premiership?

  • 3
    I would argue speechwriter's are common both in the UK and the rest of the planet. I believe the naming to be important because these are often works with a lof of drafts and collaborations towards achieving a final product (which might have more than one writer/collaborator). So unless a Prime Minister would insist on writing its own speech, the rule is probably that this is done by others. The most likely exceptions (but not a speech per se) are parliamentary interventions which often need to be spontaneous, like in a reply to the opposition.
    – armatita
    May 31, 2019 at 15:15
  • Presumably the speech is written by a speechwriter who works with the policy team to ensure coherency between the words and actual policy?
    – 52d6c6af
    May 31, 2019 at 15:24
  • 1
    Ideally yes, but there are plenty of examples of a speechwriter hired due to their ability in creating good catch-phrases, diverting attention, or being able to please a large portion of the audience (often resorting to inflammatory or abstract communication). In the UK, from my experience, speeches by government officials tend to be measured. There are, of course, exceptions. And the harder the subjects the more the orators run towards symbolic communication ("Brexit means Brexit"). But it's certainly not an unique problem to the UK. Europe is plagued by inaccurate communication.
    – armatita
    May 31, 2019 at 15:49
  • Is "symbolic communication" a recognised term in political theory?
    – 52d6c6af
    May 31, 2019 at 17:04
  • 1
    Not that I know of. I was just trying to convey a notion. You can probably refer to the communication technique of Pathos, a type Rhetoric or the science of persuasion. I think it's reasonably well known in political discourse. That is: a type of argumentation based on emotions rather than logic. There are also more modern definitions, but these tend to portrait this kind of discourse very negatively. Such is the case of post-truth politics, for example.
    – armatita
    May 31, 2019 at 17:36

1 Answer 1


This depends on what one classifies as "a speech".

However, the rules of decorum in the Commons don't allow for the reading of a speech. MPs can and do take notes to refer to, but a member who reads a prepared speech will be shouted at with cries of "Reading!"

The style of debate in the House has traditionally been one of cut-and-thrust; listening to other Members' speeches and intervening in them in spontaneous reaction to opponents' views. It is thus very different from the debating style in use in some overseas legislatures, where reading of set-piece speeches from a podium or from individual desks is more common.

For set-piece speeches to party conference, for example, one thinks of David Cameron speaking without notes. Were speech writers and other political advisers used to during his preparation? Probably, but the final wording must have been David Cameron's as he didn't have a prepared text to refer to.

As you go back further in history, fewer politicians used speechwriters. Winston Churchill never employed a speechwriter and wrote all his own speeches.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .