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Genevieve Curtis - Civil Service and Speech Writing


We were absolutely delighted to receive a talk from Genevieve Curtis to a joint meeting of the club.

Genevieve started her career as a Tax lawyer before moving to the Civil Service. During her career at the Civil Service her responsibilities included teaching speech writing to diplomats and politicians as well as drafting government announcements. In her final political role she was a special advisor to 10 Downing Street and David Cameron. In 2019 Genevieve left the political world to focus on her passion as contemporary dance critic, her work has been published in both the Financial Times and The New York Times. Ballet’s brave new world in virtual reality

Genevieve focussed on her time as a lawyer and the importance of ancient thinking from those such as Aristotle that has shaped rhetoric and help inform her speech writing. She also discussed her experience in the Treasury – working with the then chancellor Philip Hammond, as well as time with Liz Truss (now Foreign Secretary), and Dominic Raab (Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor) and Steve Barclay in the Brexit department. Genevieve explained about the difference between Civil Service functions and those of politicians – one to enact policy – the other to make policy and have opinions. This was extremely useful for the group in our process of learning to debate and formulate argumentation even when one does not agree with that particular policy. She also set out the different types of speech from party conference, to budget, to short responses in Parliament; and drew a chess like analogy on having to pre-empt and out-think what one’s opponents might say. Every word matters! Finally, in a fresh element to the group she also highlighted the critical role of trust in working relationships – and particularly in political departments.

We were hugely impressed with the array of questions – and we had an extended Q&A to cover the ground.

We then proceeded with a formal debate on the topic of expertise in politics, following the recent Cabinet reshuffle.

The Motion, ‘This House thinks that politicians need experience (whether legal, medical or military for examples) in order to be a minister for a department’.

Vote 1 – Y: 75%; N: 25% Vote 2 – Y: 50%; N: 50%

This was a very intriguing debate in which practical experience and knowhow was weighed up against the ability to ask fresh questions. It was also pointed out that some of the very best ministers in history did not have practical experience in that particular department, but carried with them and introduced new ideas from other types of expertise. The motion was carried in the first vote; but then reduced to 50/50 in the second. Again, it was great to see that many in the group were ‘actively listening’ to other arguments and had heard something that persuaded them to change their mind. Another excellent session! Our next debating speaker session will come later in the term with a focus on banking.



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