It was obviously unbelievably naive for UKIP MEP Bill Etheridge to use Hitler as an example of a great orator during a lecture to young “Kippers” in Birmingham Council Chamber last week.
There are plenty of examples of great political speakers to draw on without needing to pull the abhorrent Nazi leader from the proverbial hat.
In the past Winston Churchill, John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King all managed to turn audiences. More recently the likes of Tony Blair and Barack Obama have been held up as examples of fine orators, whether you like them or not.
But looking back at footage of Hitler’s speeches I would question whether he should be regarded as a great speaker.
It seems to have become accepted wisdom that Hitler could really deliver a sermon and hold an audience in the palm of his hand.
Those who argue this highlight those large crowds at Nuremberg hanging on his every word – but many of those were uniformed loyalists led into an arena, like school kids mustered for morning assembly, and made to stand to attention for their leader. The phrase “preaching to the converted” springs to mind.
There is also much manipulation of the footage by the film-makers and propagandists.
I’m sure North Korea’s Kim Jung Un could pull a similar stunt today and no-one regards him as one of history’s great speakers.
Hitler also had this habit of glaring at his audience without uttering a word for minutes on end. He would then build into a frenzy of ranting and screaming, rather like Basil Fawlty in the middle of a breakdown.
It’s safe to say this kind of thing is porbably a bit of a turn-off for modern audiences.
If young UKIP members take anything from Mr Etheridge’s lesson it should be that it is not clever or funny to invoke Hitler as a positive role model in any aspect of life – even a toothbrush moustache appreciation website.
And secondly that the only person who can learn anything from Hitler’s speaking style would be a Freddie Star tribute act.
Last week saw the publication of the Taxpayer’s Alliance annual Town Hall rich list – which showed that 20 Birmingham City Council employees received more than £100,000 remuneration during 2012/13 financial year.
What was stunning was that despite being by far the largest local authority in the UK, executive pay is Birmingham City Council is fairly modest compared to many county councils. The list is compiled from the latest audited accounts and is essentially raw, unedited data.
As far as I can work out there are about 11 staff who may be on £100k plus basic salaries – some pay scales straddle the arbitrary £100k line chosen by the Taxpayers Alliance.
There is also a cohort of assistant directors who have pay scales up to £99,000 (presumably to avoid adding to the rich list).
It turns out that if an executive leaves part way through a year having worked six months and are replaced – assuming there is no big redundancy cheque or back pay – neither would make the list.
What is also missing from the data is the private sector comparison.
We have strategic directors, running life or death services like children’s social care and responsible for thousands of staff, on salaries that would barely make middle management in many organisations.
Meanwhile, there are many middle managers, and even lower orders, who smashed through the £100k barrier after winning equal pay cases, tribunal payouts or walking away with maximum redundancy packages.
At a time when councils are shedding jobs left, right and centre it is not surprising that this ‘rich list’ is swelling as it costs a lot of money to make long servers redundant.
And as the Freedom Of Information Act and various dictats from government opening up our town halls to greater transparency we have access to more data than ever – but without any context we are at risk of drawing very much the wrong conclusions.