Politics.co.uk Blog

Monday, 26 September 2011

Who was better: Tories' William Hague, or Labour's Rory Weal?

An extraordinarily effective speech from a 16-year-old has proved the unexpected highlight of Monday at the Labour party conference.

Rory Weal proved a real breath of fresh air when he stood up to address party delegates in Liverpool before the main event of the morning session, shadow chancellor Ed Balls' speech.

Like all successful speeches from young whippersnappers, it invited instant comparisons with William Hague's infamous speech to the 1977 Conservative party conference. You can compare and contrast the two addresses below.

Leader of the opposition Ed Miliband, Balls and Harriet Harman were among those listening spellbound as the teenager delivered a forceful three-minute tirade against the coalition's cuts.

The hike in tuition fees, the scrapping of the educational maintenance allowance and changes to the welfare system all came in for criticism during the speech.

"As someone who would have benefited from the full EMA payout before it was scrapped, what does he advise when I can't afford to go to school in the morning?" he asked of prime minister David Cameron.

"What does he advise when I can't buy the materials and textbooks I need for school? This government is repeatedly showing just how out of touch it is with the lives of ordinary people in the UK."

The sight of a schoolboy explaining how his home was dispossessed two-and-a-half years ago, and the experience of relying on the welfare state his family experienced, proved a brief tear-jerker. Then came the killer blow: "that very same welfare state is being ripped apart by the vicious and right-wing Tory-led government", he said angrily, a study of controlled frustration. Cue another big round of applause.

"I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for that system, that safety net," Rory continued.

"It is up to us in the Labour party to create a vision of what a better Britain will look like. Let's get to work!"

Weal is obviously a man - or rather, a boy - or rather, somewhere inbetween - of the people. His suit was just a little too big for him.

He walked over to Miliband and co, clapping delightedly from their seats on stage, before wandering off. It was not quite the sort of wild reception saved for enthusiastic audiences of talent show auditionees. But it wasn't far off.