Skilful use of the rhetorical tropes which typify the language of serious political occasions — described here as “rhetorical weight” — is closely associated with charismatic political leaders. This paper studies the political rhetoric of a skilled exponent of the art, Chris Patten, the last British colonial governor of Hong Kong, and shows how he used rhetorical weight to promote his political agenda. Detailed analysis of four segments of Patten’s political oratory, spread over the period of his five-year term of office, highlights his heavy use of the tropes of metaphor, antithesis, parallelism, actualisation, and the unities of time, place and action. The paper demonstrates how the use of these tropes related to Patten’s overall political goals and their manipulative nature within the context of his discursive construction of Britain’s imperial/national history and identity.
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