20 OCTOBER 2001, Page 40

Second-rate speechifying

From The Revd David Mason, OBE Sir: You claim in your leading article (13 October) that Tony Blair is good with words. Yet, for me, it is precisely his oratory that puts me off.

There is no light or shade. There is no spontaneous humour. One never feels that he himself has spent hours wrestling with his text. The actual words are provided by a team of speechwriters. So far as the Prime Minister is concerned, his primary concern is delivery. The inner man is never revealed because the key phrases are second-hand.

Think of the sweat and labour that Winston Churchill put into writing his speeches, or the irony and wit of Nye Bevan. And Harold Wilson could demolish a heckler with a salty aside.

Before praising Blair, remember Hugh Gaitskell's speech, also at a party conference, in the 1960s when he made the case for staying out of Europe. One may not have agreed with him, but there was genuine passion, moving references to national history and inspired eloquence.

David Mason LondonW6