Order! Order! Sir Lindsay Hoyle: Our Gradely Speaker of the House of Commons and t’ Lancashire Accent

‘I need this house to gain respect,’ intoned the Speaker of the House of Commons, as clear as a bell in his Lancashire accent in the above video, ‘but it starts by individuals showing respect to each other.’

Mr Speaker aka Sir Lindsay Hoyle, my local Chorley MP, could be speaking for all of us in the country right now.

For this summer, the bar of respect, trustworthiness and honesty fell to a new low and brought the UK’s reputation as one of the great democracies to its knees at the hands of former Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Initially, Mr Johnson’s theatrical charisma and his powerful public school accent sounding out its clarion call to ‘get Brexit done’ was effective to whip up enough national fervour to win the 20219 General Election with an 80 seat majority.

But a series of policy gaffes in the pandemic such as the release of Covid patients into old people’s homes and the ignominious accomplishment of being the only PM in office to break the law — his own lockdown laws during ‘Partygate’ — has earned Johnson, according to former Downing Street Director of Communications Alastair Campbell, the title of ‘our worst ever Prime Minister’.

With Johnson and his elaborate metaphors and emotional arousal crescendo style now replaced by Liz Truss, our fourth Prime Minister in six years, our disordered country has another vocal challenge afoot.

According to journalist Andrew Marr, Johnson’s successor Truss is ‘pretty wooden’, ‘not a great communicator’ and ‘can’t make a speech’.

On his LBC show after Truss’s win, Marr said, ‘…speaking of wooden, I have had only one face to face conversation of any length with her and I have to tell you, I felt like an elderly tree being vigorously assaulted by a particularly unrelenting woodpecker.’

Perhaps Marr is being a bit harsh here?

As Ellie Fry, Senior Lifestyle Writer for The Mirror reports, Prime Minister Truss’s confident rhetoric and slow and low delivery voice feels miles away from the awkward speech about cheese imports during her first cabinet post as environment secretary.

Maybe Truss’s clear epiphoric delivery, delivery, delivery is just what this country needs to be taken more seriously again on the global political stage?

Even across the benches, Sir Keir Starmer, Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Labour Party since 2020, is also considered to be in the ‘a bit wooden’ camp too.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle, ‘I think the House knows they’ve got a Lancastrian in the chair’

The Right Honourable Lindsay Hoyle MP official portrait 2020

Fortunately, there is one voice that is holding the people who run our country together — Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker of the House of Commons – and his voice is pure Lancashire.

Speaker Hoyle’s voice is typical of people that had the wherewithal and strength of mind and arm to pull together as a community to power the industrial revolution, enough to process 85% of the world’s cotton.

In an interview with Great British Life he said, ‘We all have a different style to bring to the job. I think the House knows they’ve got a Lancastrian in the chair.’

Inside the Commons he is considered to be personally a very popular man across both sides of the floor.

No mean feat when you consider how difficult a job being the Speaker is – maintaining order in the House. Bound to defend the conventions of the Commons, such as to stop MPs calling Johnson a liar, even when confronted with a politician who no longer has any pants on because around his ankles lies a ring of ash on the ground.

Outside of the Commons, his light sabre calm Lancashire voice is a balm t’soul of anyone who has been turned off, née given up on British politics because his warm insistent voice and forthright accent is a breath of fresh air to a country in a time of uncertain transition.

What do the linguists say about the Lancashire accent and honesty?

Dr Rob Drummond, Head of the Research Centre for Creative Writing, English Literature and Linguistics at Manchester Metropolitan University said accents are associated with certain social characteristics.

He said, ‘People’s feelings and attitudes towards particular accents are fascinating, as they rely on stereotypes that develop over generations which connect different ways of speaking with different social characteristics.

‘Certain accents from areas in the north of England, such as Lancashire, have that association with honesty and straightforwardness, and this association is accentuated when the speaker is surrounded by other accents that are perhaps not viewed in the same way.

‘There is, of course, nothing objectively ‘posh’ or ‘honest’ or ‘trustworthy’ about a particular accent, it’s simply that we make associations on the basis of our own experiences, both in real life and through the media.’

He added, ‘One feature of Lindsay Hoyle’s accent that is of interest is his rhoticity – the way he slightly pronounces the ‘r’ in words such as ‘park’ or ‘fair’. Most accents in England don’t do this, but Lancashire is one of the places where this still occurs (although it is likely dying out). Other typical Lancashire features are his pronunciation of the vowel sound in words such as ‘mouth’ or ‘loud’, and also the vowel in ‘square’ or ‘care’.’

If only every person entering politics spoke with a Lancashire accent or Lanky as it is known colloquially, then perhaps respect, honesty and trustworthiness would raise the roofbeams of the House of Commons. Reet? Proper reet.

PS It is impossible to lie in a Lancashire accent. Try it.

See more of Sir Lindsay Hoyle’s choice cuts as deputy speaker.

Dr Rob Drummond is a Reader in Sociolinguistics and Head of the the Research Centre for Creative Writing, English Literature and Linguistics at Manchester Metropolitan University. His current three areas of research are:

Further reading: A Grammar Of The Dialect Of Adlington (Lancashire), Karl Andrew Hargreaves, 1904.

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