Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Britain, which has long prided itself on a reputation for good manners, is becoming increasingly rude, according to a new poll.

Highly-paid footballers and celebrities are setting a bad example, according to the survey, put out today.

It listed spitting and swearing as the most offensive forms of behaviour.

Almost nine out of 10 people - 86.2 per cent - think Britons have become ruder than a decade ago, the poll for the ITV1 Tonight television program found.

"I suppose it's part of the breakdown in society, the fact that we stopped having respect for figures in authority, partly because those in authority didn't command it,'' Diana Mather, an etiquette coach, said.

Britons traditionally liked to think of themselves as superior to foreigners at things like queuing and giving up their seats on public transport to disabled people or pregnant women.

But the rise of football culture - and football hooligans creating mayhem - has long dented this image abroad, and now Britons themselves acknowledge they have a major problem.

More than half of those asked - 56.5 per cent - thought bad manners were the biggest problem in the country, according to the survey based on answers from some 2800 adults.

Spitting caused the most offence for 27.6 per cent, ahead of swearing by 20.2 per cent, followed by queue-jumping, talking loudly on mobile phones, not saying "please'' or "thank you,'' and belching or passing wind in public.

Nearly 75 per cent of Britons think the behaviour of celebrity footballers encourages bad manners in society.

But when asked to name the worst influence on children's manners, 63.8 per cent blamed the behaviour and lack of discipline of parents, with over 90 per cent saying parents are failing to pass on basic manners to their children.

Some 15.9 per cent said celebrities and footballers were the worst influence, followed by 5.4 per cent for television program.

"I think my generation has a lot to answer for because I think the youth culture in the 60s and early 70s threw out every rule book and thought it was really clever to use four letter words and so on,'' Esther Rantzen, patron of Campaign for Courtesy, said.

"But I think things should go back, not to the old deference, not to grovelling, not to any of that, but just to feeling respect, because I think that would make everyone's life pleasanter.''

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