Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language: Respect

Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language: Respect

Article excerpt

'Respect!' cried my husband, drop-kicking a cushion with a picture of the Queen Mother holding a pint of beer on it (a present from Veronica) across the drawing-room. I might as well be married to Russell Brand and be done with it.

His little satire was set off by Ed Miliband's remarks about Emily Thornberry's notorious Cross of St George tweet. 'What is going through my mind is respect,' the Labour leader said. 'Respect is the basic rule of politics and I'm afraid her tweet conveyed a sense of disrespect.' This seems to me deranged.

If Mr Miliband knew about life 'down in the street' he'd realise that 'respect' is the gangland correlative of honour. Weaker members of gangs are required to show respect to the top dogs. Those accused of showing lack of respect suffer violence. This is hardly how we want politicians to behave.

Respect in a menacing sense arrived from the Caribbean in the 1990s. In 1985 the Gleaner had announced Hugo Barrington's release of 'Respect Is Due'. I think it was actually called 'Respect Due'. The discography is complicated. I've heard a version by Charlie Chaplin, the ragga DJ, to the folk tune 'Muss i denn', popularised by Elvis as 'Wooden Heart'. …

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