Launch event: The Crisis of Rhetoric: Renewing Political Speech and Speechwriting

House of Lords - Parliament Square - London - SW1A 0PW
Tuesday 15 October 2019 (17:00-19:00)

Launch and discussion of the findings of The Crisis of Rhetoric research project investigating political speech and speechwriting today. 


  • Professor Mary Beard 
  • Phil Collins (The Times
  • Dr Henriette van der Blom and Professor Alan Finlayson 

Robust public debate and the freedom to make arguments and counterarguments are essential for democracy. But debates need to be productive and arguments need to be good ones. Political discussion must be more than sectarian assertions and insults traded like blows in a wrestling match. 

The research project The Crisis of Rhetoric: Renewing Political Speech and Speechwriting, brought together academic researchers, politicians, speechwriters and political journalists to discuss the state of political argument today, to share knowledge and experiences of political speechmaking and speechwriting and to reflect on how ancient and modern ideas about rhetoric can contribute to the quality of political speech and argument today. 

This event sees the launch of a report of the findings and recommendations of the project and a discussion led by the leading classical scholar Prof. Mary Beard and the Times columnist and former Downing Street speechwriter Philip Collins. We will debate what is right and what is wrong with our rhetorical culture today, and how speechmakers and speechwriters might (in the words of the great Roman rhetoric teacher Quintilian) docere, delectare, et movere – prove, please and persuade. 

For questions contact Professor Alan Finlayson ( and Dr Henriette van der Blom (