Even when his speech is significant, or hailed as such, it is couched in words of at times incredible banality.
Last week, he flew into Belfast, surrounded by so much secrecy that the venue of his speech was kept hidden even from government officials until the last minute. We were informed an hour beforehand that he was going to make his most significant speech on Northern Ireland since that of May 16, 1997. On the occasion, he had made Belfast his first port of call after becoming the first Labor leader to win a British general election since 1974. Then, his chosen venue had been the Royal Ulster Agricultural Show in Balmoral, South Belfast. Last Thursday, it was a meeting of Northern Irish businessmen in the offices of the Harbor Commission near the city center. On both occasions, the prime minister set out to define what he saw as the path the faltering peace process should take if it was to succeed.
In 1997, when he spoke, the peace process was bogged down. The Provisional IRA had returned to its armed campaign that had recommenced when it ended its first ceasefire in February 1996. The campaign, after having gotten off to a spectacular start with the bombing of Canary Wharf, was turning into a bit of a disaster, with some of the Provisionals