Is Miliband morphing into Blair?

What’s happened to David Miliband’s voice? At the 2008 Labour conference he sounded like Rory Bremner doing Tony Blair. Or, to put it technically, the heir to Blair has abandoned the “dark L”. That’s not some sinister Labour faction plotting against Gordon Brown but the sound we make when pronouncing words with an “L” towards the end, such as “people”.

What has changed in his voice?

Listening to a clip from 2002 (tinyurl.com/549czy), Miliband is very clear and articulate. Back then, the foreign secretary used all of the consonants. Now, in a speech at the conference (tinyurl.com/3s9dp3) and elsewhere, as well as dropping the dark L – so the “L” sound at the end of “people” becomes a “w” sound – he is also dropping “t” from the end of words.

Take “government”. In 2002, Miliband pronounced it with three clear syllables and the little “n” – gov-ern-ment. In 2008, Miliband has joined those who replace the “t” on the end with a glottal stop: it becomes something like “guv-mund”.

The Blair influence?

He also repeatedly introduces this Blair-like glottal stop (a build-up of air beneath the vocal folds, which is quickly released) on phrases such as “down and out” and “important point”. As well as eliding words and syllables, Miliband also imitates his old boss by saying five or six words and then pausing.

His pace used to be fairly fluid. Now, it is too staccato, which can sound patronising, impatient and a little preachy.

I’m one of you … you can trust me

These changes are often subconscious but can also be chosen. People often adopt an accent that says, “I’m one of you.” I might do it too if a plumber is giving me a quote so they don’t assume I’m wealthy. But Miliband risks over-egging the pudding, as you can hear on radio phone-ins such as the Jeremy Vine Show in July, when he said: “We ‘ave a role to play.”

Deliberate or natural change?

Miliband’s dropping of received pronunciation could be a conscious effort to move away from David Cameron’s almost heightened RP as well as copying Blair. But Cameron has a much more flowing manner and pauses in the right place, at the end of a sentence.

Politicians don’t often admit to voice coaching because they see it as a sign of weakness. But Miliband should seek help from a coach. I would want him to be a lot more fluid in his speaking. He should also be himself – not another Tony Blair.

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