GE2015: A Study of the best political speakers

The timeline was short.

181 politicians.

9 days.

Every minute had to count.

They fanned out across the country meeting voters face to face, holding nightly rallies and screeching into microphones.

They went on social media.

They handed out manifestos to anyone who would read it.

All, in a bid to tell Singaporeans just why they were the best man or woman for the job.

Some could inspire. Others could motivate thousands to action. But what separates them from the rest?

It’s that ability to reach out an invisible hand and touch their audience with their words and their presence.

Here are some of our top picks for best speech of GE2015 and why we thought so –

Lee Hsien Loong is a great story-teller – he’s got all the right elements that make a great story : dialogue, surprise elements, an easy pace of delivery and it’s told with a twinkle in his eye. Stories are an excellent tool for getting your point across and making sure it’s remembered.

Ong Ye Kung, the up and coming Singapore politician makes the list because of his quotable quote. “This General Election, you have the power to write the last chapter of the PAP government or to write the first chapter of the new PAP.”

A good speech hits you right in your heart and that’s what Dr Chee Soon Juan did. He appealed to emotions and if it was anything we remembered about his speech, it was his ability to pull at our emotions with his well-placed story about something as simple as buying ice-cream for his children.

Last and definitely not least, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam had the tough job of explaining complicated policies to the masses. But he has the ability to break it down simply in a way that only a seasoned speaker can.

If there’s one thing to learn from great speakers, it is to keep it simple – always.

The Trampoline Interview

Social Media has been abuzz with kudos for Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam’s handling of an interview with the BBC. The topic was “An Investigative Interview : Singapore 50 Years after Independence”. The Deputy Prime Minister was in Switzerland and was being interviewed by BBC’s HardTalk Presenter Stephen Sackur. Stephen is known to be an experienced journalist who asks tough questions. In fact, he has said before, a programme like HardTalk gives him time to dig deeper with his guests – to take them to where the tough questions lie. He added that this only works if the journalist has done his homework.

As a journalist, I can’t agree more. But watching that interview, it would seem that while Stephen has done his research, the Deputy Prime Minister has done a lot more. It shows in the interview that Mr Tharman knows Singapore and its policies inside out. He had a ready answer for the tough questions and he defended the government’s policy decisions with substantiated facts and figures.

It helps to be quick-thinking as well. My favourite was Mr Tharman’s analogy of Singapore as a trampoline. Here’s an excerpt –

Sackur: Do you believe in the concept of a safety net?

Tharman: We believe in a concept of support for you taking up opportunities. So we don’t have unemployment.

Sackur: I believe in the sometimes simplicity of yes-or-no answers. What about this idea of a safety net? Does Singapore believe in the notion of a safety net for those who fall between the cracks of a successful economy?

Tharman: I believe in the notion of a trampoline

Sackur: So people are just bouncing up and down in Singapore?

Tharman: No, it boils down to what policies you’re talking about. If you provide help for someone who is willing to study hard; if you provide help for someone who is willing to take up a job and work at it, and make life not so easy if you stay out of work; if you provide help for someone who wants to own a home — and we are very generous in our grants for home ownership, which is why we have 90 per cent home ownership and, among the low-income population, more than 80 per cent own their homes — it transforms culture.

It’s not just about transactions, it’s not just about the size of grants, it’s about keeping alive a culture where I feel proud that I own my home and I earn my own success through my job. I feel proud that I’m raising my family. And keeping that culture going is what keeps a society vibrant.


And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how it’s done. Here’s the video for those who’d like to watch it. Enjoy!