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A trainspotter’s guide to political speeches, great and terrible

By Sam Leith   October 2011

Above, Aristotle identified the elements of a good speech

The party conference season is upon us: Tories at Manchester, Labour in Liverpool, and the Lib Dems gladdening Birmingham with their yellow pennants and insane optimism. What can we expect? Speeches, of course. Some of them “keynote,” even.Such speeches can make or break a leader’s career, and political trainspotters will, naturally, be all over them. However for trainspotters of another stripe—ones like me—the action is not over policy, but rhetoric. Here are some notes on what to look for.

Aristotle said there were three appeals that rhetoric could make: ethos, pathos…

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