IRAM RAMZAN: Angela Rayner, I am also a gobby Northern lass. That’s no excuse for bad grammar  – Sound Health and Lasting Wealth

[ad_1]

Labour’s Deputy Leader Angela Rayner is sometimes described as ‘fiery’ or ‘ballsy’, an authentic, working-class ‘gobby Northern lass’ – her own words – who can stick it to the Tories.

As such, she has come under intense scrutiny – some might say unfairly on occasion – over the way she speaks. 

On BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday, as the row raged over the No 10 ‘party’ during the first lockdown in May 2020, Rayner said Boris Johnson had questions to answer about the gathering when people nationwide were banned from meeting more than one person they didn’t live with outdoors.

‘Was you there or not at the party?’ she demanded of the Prime Minister. She repeated this grammatical faux pas more than once. I winced each time. Not long after, Rayner took to Twitter to highlight the criticism she had received.

I, too, am a gobby Northern lass, hailing from Oldham, Greater Manchester, with an accent to match – which becomes stronger the more, er, animated I get. I did not go to a posh school; I went to a state comprehensive – but I was taught good grammar and I know its value

‘I’ve been on the media this morning so my accent and grammar are being critiqued,’ she posted. 

‘I wasn’t Eton-educated, but growing up in Stockport I was taught integrity, honesty and decency. Doesn’t mater [sic] how you say it. Boris Johnson is unfit to lead.’

That may well be the case, Angela, but how you say it and the grammar you use do matter.

In my book, there is no excuse for bad grammar in spoken or written language. As a public figure – and the highest-ranking woman on the Opposition front bench – she should know better.

I, too, am a gobby Northern lass, hailing from Oldham, Greater Manchester, with an accent to match – which becomes stronger the more, er, animated I get. I did not go to a posh school; I went to a state comprehensive – but I was taught good grammar and I know its value.

¿I wasn¿t Eton-educated, but growing up in Stockport I was taught integrity, honesty and decency. Doesn¿t mater [sic] how you say it. Boris Johnson is unfit to lead.¿ That may well be the case, Angela, but how you say it and the grammar you use do matter

‘I wasn’t Eton-educated, but growing up in Stockport I was taught integrity, honesty and decency. Doesn’t mater [sic] how you say it. Boris Johnson is unfit to lead.’ That may well be the case, Angela, but how you say it and the grammar you use do matter

You don’t have to have enjoyed a privileged upbringing or education in order to speak well and it is insulting to working-class people to suggest that their background rules out a command of the Queen’s English – by which I mean using language which is grammatically correct and free of slang.

Look at Prince Harry. The best education in the land at Boris’s alma mater – at a cost of about £44,000 a year – yet he often struggles to construct coherent sentences when interviewed. And that was before Californian psychobabble took over.

I’m not the only one to take issue with Rayner’s aggressive stance. GB News presenter Colin Brazier, who was born in Bradford, responded to her tweet with: ‘There are plenty of working-class folk who were taught the value of good grammar. I’m one of them.’

Naturally, the Labour Deputy Leader had support from her fan base on the Left, who agreed that, of course, poor Angela was the target of prejudice and snobbery. Author Michael Rosen told her: ‘You speak really well. There is nothing “wrong” with regional accents and dialects.’

He’s right. There is nothing wrong with regional accents and dialects – more of that later. But good grammar is the issue here. For Rayner to conflate the two is disingenuous.

Indeed, there are several prominent Labour MPs with interesting accents: Jon Trickett and Richard Burgon (Yorkshire), Jon Ashworth (Greater Manchester) and Jo Stevens (Welsh). As far as I am aware, no one makes fun of them. Nor is Rayner being vilified for her accent, however she might spin it.

I¿m not the only one to take issue with Rayner¿s aggressive stance. GB News presenter Colin Brazier, who was born in Bradford, responded to her tweet with: ¿There are plenty of working-class folk who were taught the value of good grammar. I¿m one of them'

I’m not the only one to take issue with Rayner’s aggressive stance. GB News presenter Colin Brazier, who was born in Bradford, responded to her tweet with: ‘There are plenty of working-class folk who were taught the value of good grammar. I’m one of them’

The MP for Ashton-under-Lyne is, in many ways, a remarkable woman. She was brought up on a council estate in Stockport by a single mum who struggled with bipolar disorder.

At 16 she left school, pregnant with the first of her three children.

This disadvantaged background, as well as the years she spent working in the care sector, means she has more experience of hardship than most of her fellow MPs. That is why she is seen as an authentic voice for working-class people.

But I believe she deploys the hard-done-by Northern card far too often – especially when criticised for the crass behaviour and abusive language she is prone to, which demeans her and the people she represents. At a fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference last September, Rayner famously ranted about how the Conservatives were ‘a bunch of scum, homophobic, racist, misogynistic, absolute pile… of banana republic… Etonian piece of scum… that I have ever seen in my life’.

She refused to apologise, insisting her attack was made using ‘street language’. Pressed by Sky’s Trevor Phillips, she insisted that ‘it’s a phrase that you would hear very often in Northern, working-class towns that we’d even say it jovially to other people’.

What nonsense! I have never once heard someone refer to another person as scum in a ‘jovial’ manner up North. Ever.

And I’m certain if I ever described anyone in my circle back home as such, I’d get a clip around the ear.

Rayner eventually apologised. But she does have form on this. A year earlier she had to apologise for calling Conservative MP Chris Clarkson ‘scum’ during a heated debate in the Commons. There is simply no excusing this sort of derogatory language, and to blame it on her background is unforgivable to many of us who share similar roots.

Where Angela Rayner does have a point, however, is on the snobbery and class prejudice that persists around accents. George Bernard Shaw once observed: ‘It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him.’

Research shows there is still a perception that Received Pronunciation makes a person sound more educated, that a Birmingham accent is deemed the least attractive and those with a Liverpudlian accent are the least trustworthy, while Irish and Scottish accents are ‘sexy’.

Some people, as they progress in life, actively try to lose their accent, while others will maintain theirs to stay ‘true’ to their roots.

Actor Kenneth Branagh last week revealed that within three years of moving to South-East England, he had lost any trace of his Belfast accent. He admitted to feeling guilty when it disappeared.

On the positive side, there is no question that class prejudice around accents is on the wane – helped by television and radio, where broadcasters have recognised the need to feature more representative voices to better reflect their audiences.

Journalist Chris Mason, 41, who hails from the Yorkshire Dales, is tipped to be the BBC’s new political editor – partly because he has a regional accent. (It also helps that he’s a brilliant reporter and presenter.) Some of the Beeb’s most eminent young journalists have pronounced regional accents.

Amol Rajan, 38, who recently joined the Corporation’s flagship Today programme, speaks pure ‘sarf’ London, while Emma Barnett, 36, the lead presenter of Woman’s Hour, grew up in Manchester and you can hear it in her voice. Few listeners would, however, take issue with their grammar.

In the age of social media, when texting shorthand and slang are the way many people communicate, some will say that grammar isn’t an issue. But it does and should matter. It is key to good communication, to being understood, to getting your message across.

And no one should better understand the importance of that than Rayner. But in playing the working-class card to excuse her slip-ups, she risks becoming a caricature of what it means to be a Northerner – and take it from me, the rest of us don’t much like it.

[ad_2]

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.