David Threlfall

David Threlfall

PhD Researcher

Department of Media and Communications

Connect with me

English, French, German
Key Expertise
Rhetoric, Speeches, Campaign Communication, Politics, Political Ideology

About me

Research interests

David’s research explores the evolution and the timelessness of political rhetoric. Focusing on British general election campaigns from 1945 to 2019, he will examine 75 years of campaign speech and analyse changes in rhetorical appeals, speech frequency during campaigns, elements of rhetorical situation (venue, audience, mediation) and of the speeches themselves (themes/narratives, ideology, length). David’s aim is to place the evolution of campaign rhetoric in the context of the evolution of the communications environment and the public sphere, as newspaper coverage of British politics has slowly been joined by radio, television, the internet and social media.

The study will work in three methodological steps: (1) archival research to produce a comprehensive longitudinal record of major party leaders’ campaign rhetoric since 1945; (2) computer-assisted content analysis of this corpus to pull out key quantitative insights, and; (3) rhetorical political analysis to dig deeper into the political significance of these speeches and the way they’ve changed (or not) over time.

SupervisorsDr Nick Anstead and Dr Damian Tambini


David’s doctoral study at LSE takes partial inspiration from his research at the University of Cambridge, where he completed an MPhil in International Relations and Politics in 2020 (distinction). At Cambridge, David undertook a historical analysis of the British Conservative Party’s use of the term “technology” as a political tool, and connected Conservative politicians’ changing use of the term to the Party’s ideological heritage. For this work David received a prize from the Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS) for the highest dissertation score in the cohort, and the St Edmund’s College Prize in recognition of academic excellence.

Before returning to study, David worked for six years at the intersection of the higher education sector and government. From 2017 to 2019 he was chief of staff at the Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG). As chief of staff, David worked on organisational strategy, wrote speeches, lectures and submissions to government, was involved in the daily management of the School, and worked closely with civil service leaders in New Zealand and across the Australian federal and state & territory administrations.

From 2013 to 2017, David worked in the Vice-Chancellor’s Office at the University of Melbourne, supporting Professor Glyn Davis AC. David provided research assistance for a number of public policy projects, and before this worked in communications. Previously, David held roles in the Victorian Department of Education, and as a parliamentary intern with the Victorian State Parliament.

David also completed his undergraduate study at the University of Melbourne. He holds a fourth-year Honours Degree in Politics and International Studies, a Bachelor of Arts in Politics and French, and a Diploma of Languages in German (all First Class Honours).

The LSE supports David’s doctoral studies through an LSE PhD Studentship.

Expertise Details

Rhetoric; Speeches; Campaign Communication; Politics; Political Ideology


Book chapters

Althaus, C and D Threlfall (2021). ‘The policy cycle and policy theory: from theory building to policy making’, in B Hildreth, G Miller, and E Lindquist (eds), Routledge Handbook of Public Administration (4th edn), Routledge, chapter 21.

Threlfall, D and C Althaus (2021). ‘A quixotic quest: making theory speak to practice’ in T Mercer, R Ayres, B Head, and J Wanna. (eds), Learning policy, doing policy: the interaction between policy theory, policy practice and policy teaching, Australian National University (ANU) Press ANZSOG Series, chapter 2, pp. 29-48.


Op-eds and long-form writing

Threlfall, D (2021). ‘Home, together, a family:Imagining a future when the present is purgatory’, Griffith Review 73: Hey, Utopia!, https://www.griffithreview.com/articles/home-together-a-family/

Threlfall, D (2020). ‘A great experiment: finding sanctuary for attention in the digital world’, Griffith Review 67: A matter of trust; https://www.griffithreview.com/articles/a-great-experiment

Threlfall, D (2018). ‘From walk to talk: academics and practitioners join forces for public policy learning’, The Mandarin; https://www.themandarin.com.au/98387-from-walk-to-talk-academics-and-practitioners-join-forces-for-public-policy-learning/

Althaus, C and D Threlfall (2017). ‘Game of Thrones and the underbelly of policy advice’, The Mandarin; https://www.themandarin.com.au/83251-game-thrones-underbelly-policy-advice/

Althaus, C and D Threlfall (2017). ‘Which Game of Thrones leader are you?’, The Mandarin; https://www.themandarin.com.au/83257-game-of-thrones-leaders/

Threlfall, D (2016). ‘Wedge politics can’t cure climate change’, Election Watch; http://electionwatch.unimelb.edu.au/australia-2016/articles/Australian-wedge-politics-cant-cure-climate-change


Public lectures and conference presentations

Threlfall, D and C Althaus (2018). ‘Winter is coming: lessons for public servants from Westeros’, address at IPAA National Conference, Melbourne, 17 October.

Threlfall, D and C Althaus (2018). ‘A quixotic quest: making theory speak to practice’, ANZSOG/APS workshop lecture, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, Canberra, 9 July.