I’ve been a public speaker since my school days. I remember creating a bit of a sensation in the third form with an incendiary speech on the Profumo scandal (sex and politics again) in front of the School Debating Society. At the Oxford Union I was in my element, elected unopposed in my final year as its President. In turn this led to the ESU/Oxford Union debating tour – two months, sixty debates each time on a different campus. And since, its been campaigning, lecturing, and commenting in public meetings of all kinds.
Highlights for me were; during the 1975 referendum (the one we won) when I had to organise the youth vote, taking part in the televised Oxford Union debate just two days before the vote, along with Ted Heath and Barbara Castle; addressing a Trafalgar Square rally and speaking at Central Hall with Roy Jenkins and Ted Heath; being shouted down at the Oxford Union in April 1970 when supporting the Labour government’s Vietnam policy (unfortunately just two days after the Kent State shootings);speaking in Plymouth Guildhall with Tony Benn in 1982; and representing the Socialist Group at a rally for PASOK in Ammonia Square at the beginning of the 90s, in front of a million supporters.
There is nothing to beat engaging with an audience, holding attention, persuading, arguing, arousing and, on occasion, moving. I usually use no notes the better to engage with the audience, but I prepare.