News that The King’s Speech is leading the Oscars’ field will probably come as no surprise to those that have seen the film – unfortunately, most of “those” reside outside the Brussels bubble, since it won’t appear on Belgian cinema screens until around 23 February.
From what the Lobby can surmise from the snippets of information fed to it from friends, associates, and (most importantly) Wikipedia, we can gather that it concerns the attempts by King George VI to overcome his stammer with the onset of the Second World War. The subtext being that a nation which in times of war has a stammering Head of State denotes weakness and uncertainty.
Times have not changed. With politics now overwhelmingly dominated by style over substance, a stammering politician would probably receive short shrift, but from whom exactly? His party, or his electorate?
The Lobby knows for a fact that there are MEPs who stammer, and yet presumably they have been thoroughly vetted by their party and been elected by the people on the basis of their views, character, and ability.
Thus, what you say appears to be more important than how you say it. So style, actually, is not always “over” substance. Rather a stammering politician who talks sense, it seems, than a fluent one who rambles and fails to connect with the populace.
Indeed, it is bizarre that stammerers are perceived as weak, since to live each waking hour with such a speech impediment requires great strength of character. After all, a stammer does not pack up and go on holiday in August, nor does it leave town over the weekend.
Moreover, someone who lives with a stammer but has the courage to stand for public office should demand our respect. Thereafter, what they say should take precedence, and, as we have seen with some notable MEPs (and no doubt other politicians around the world), it does.
Stammering is often couched in the language of disease. SYMPTOMS must be recognised, a stammerer must be DIAGNOSED, and then a CURE can be proposed, with the help of ongoing TREATMENT.
This hardly improves the perception of stammering. Beyond childhood, most stammerers must learn to live with it anyway (indeed, to use another medical term, it is often INCURABLE), so why is not more acceptable to stammer now and then?
(As some speech therapists may tell you, everyone stammers – the only difference is the frequency and degree).
Similarly, perhaps we should stop seeing stammering, or any speech impediment, as a disease, but rather as an intriguing personality trait.
Not many people stammer, but enough do to make it socially acceptable. Perhaps if this happened, then stammering would lose its perceived shame, a greater number of potential politicans may have the courage and the backing to make a difference, and King George VI would not have had to CURE his stammer in order to be taken seriously by his people.
For more information about stammering please visit the British Stammering Association (who had no input into this article – we just think they’re great).