Angela Rayner Should Not Be Criticised For Her Grammar

‘I wasn’t Eton educated, but growing up in Stockport I was taught integrity,’ she responded to backlash over her phrasing and accent.

Angela Rayner

by Lydia Spencer-Elliott |
Updated on

As the country rages at the news of another Number 10 lockdown garden party there is one woman that seems to be everywhere. The Deputy Leader Of The Opposition Angela Rayner has relentlessly held Boris Johnson to account on social media and across numerous TV channels throughout the ongoing controversy.

She said on BBC Breakfast the Prime Minister should resign for attending the BYOB gathering. She told Channel 4 ‘many people would be disgusted,’ at his actions. She asked on Sky News{ =nofollow}: ‘Why are we propping up this man who lied to the British public and who has broke the rules and broke the law?’

Across these multiple platforms, Rayner spoke clearly and critically about the apparent hypocrisy of Boris Johnson and his Government. Yet rather than commending her resilience, many people had just one comment to make about Rayner’s speech: It should be ‘broken the rules’ not ‘broke’.

‘I’ve been on the media this morning so my accent and grammar are being critiqued,’ Rayner responded on Twitter. ‘I wasn’t Eton educated, but growing up in Stockport I was taught integrity, honesty and decency. Doesn’t matter how you say it. Boris Johnson is unfit to lead.’

The noticeable public response to Rayner’s way of talking exemplifies that we, as a nation, have come to expect politics to be drenched in Southern accents and ostentatious speech. When the response from a politician is blunt and immediate, rather than convoluted and evasive, suddenly it feels wrong.

Why are we valuing the language of people, such as Johnson, that use words like ‘contrition’ instead of guilt or shame? This is often the language of lies. It allows for deception through its inaccessibility. It has the power to manipulate figures and facts with semantic smoke and mirrors.

When Rayner stood in for a covid-ridden Keir Starmer at the first Prime Minister’s Questions of the year, she grilled Johnson about inflation running at six per cent, to which his reply was, essentially, ‘um, er’.

Rayner was able to question Johnson so effectively precisely because her simple and understandable delivery so easily makes a mockery of his usual grandiloquence.

Johnson attempted to avoid questions about Brexit and energy prices by meandering around the answer before claiming the quotes Rayner referenced didn’t exist. When he continued to twist the truth, she paused and asked if he was feeling okay. It was very clear, he wasn’t.

Rayner’s language is understandable and familiar to the majority of the population. There are many more people that often mix up grammatical tenses than there are that speak as though they attended one of the most exclusive boarding schools in England.

To criticise Rayner because of her accent or phrasing is just as petty as criticising Jeremy Corbyn for his scruffy clothes or Ed Miliband for how he eats a bacon sandwich. These things aren’t illegal or wrong. They’re the messy, imperfect, human parts of being alive.

Whether Rayner said ‘broken’ or ‘broke’ has no muddling effect on the sentence she used to convey her point. We still understand the message, we still feel and relate to her anger.

While the Prime Minister declined to attend the Parliament Urgent Question meeting spawned from his own controversy, Rayner was there standing up and speaking for what she believed…In her Stockport accent with unwavering conviction.

After Johnson admitted to attending the party and apologised during Prime Ministers Questions a day later, Rayner told LBC: 'Our NHS workers were literally dealing with the crisis, people couldn't see their loved ones who were dying - they'll never get that time back.'

'There's a culture since Boris Johnson became Prime Minister that says the rules don't apply to us. When it comes to the pandemic, the sheer disregard when hundreds of people were dying on that day, it's absolutely astonishing.' That's sufficiently eloquent phrasing for us.

READ MORE: Labour's Angela Rayner: 'I'm Always Trying To Bring Keir Out Of His Shell A Bit More'

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