Date01 March 2015
Published date01 March 2015
AuthorMinou de Ruiter
Dennis Grube
Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, 216 pp., £55 (hb), ISBN: 9780230363618
Why do all prime ministers sound the same? This question is posed by Dennis Grube in
Prime Ministers and Rhetorical Governance. Grube’s central thesis is that prime ministerial
rhetoric in Westminster democracies is a prisoner of institutional, path-dependent forces.
Hitherto, the empirical study of political rhetoric of countries’ leaders has been largely con-
ned to the rhetoric of United State presidents (except, for example, Bennister,2007, 2008).
However, the growing personalization of politics, technological advantages and network
governance have given prime ministerial rhetoric an integral role in modern governance.
Grube’s new book addresses this role in a non-US context, asserting that prime ministers’
words ‘prove the blood vessels of communication that will then ow through the body
politic’ (p. 13). Prime ministers’ speeches and other rhetorical acts dene and frame policy
initiatives, and serve to implement new policies and persuade voters during elections.
The book follows an institutionalist perspective to explain patterns of prime ministe-
rial rhetoric and to show how these rhetorical patterns inuence governance in West-
minster parliamentary democracies. The words of PMs have the power to frame how a
nation’s citizens see their political world, but at the same time PMs nd themselves locked
into following institutionalized rhetorical recipes. Grube empirically studies and com-
pares political speeches from prime ministers in four Westminsterdemocracies: the United
Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
In chapter two the author presents the historical continuity of the use of political speech
as an extra-parliamentary leadership tool in the United Kingdom. Grube’s empirical
chapters each have a different focus with regard to the extra-parliamentary rhetorical role
of prime ministers. Grube discerns the institutionalized rhetorical patterns that govern
the behaviour of prime ministers at different points in their incumbency: during elections
(chapter 4), during new policy changes (chapter 5), when announcing policy intervention
in sub-national jurisdictions (chapter 6) and when stepping down (chapter 7).
In chapter three, Grube introduces an overarching typology of the different rhetorical
roles prime ministers have in the Westminster polity: world leader, party leader, local
member, policy advocate and national representative. Each of these roles is illustrated
by examples from speeches from prime ministers in all four countries. Chapter four
Public Administration Vol.93, No. 1, 2015 (262–270)
© 2015 John Wiley& Sons Ltd.

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