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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > Jul-18 > Bad manners

Bad manners

Politeness is often the veneer that disguises our most barbaric instincts, argues Freya Johnston
Rude awakening: polished diners ignore the rowdy lowerclasses in a 15th-century Flemish illustration
© J. PAUL GETTY MUSEUM, LOS ANGELES, USA / BRIDGEMAN IMAGES
In Pursuit of Civility: Manners and Civilization in Early Modern England by Keith Thomas (Yale University Press, £20)

“Never park here,” thunders a sign attached to the railings of one Oxford college. As such communications go, this one has plenty to recommend it—but alas its brevity is far from typical. In recent years there has been a surge in the number of English signs identifying themselves as a “Polite Notice.” These two six-letter words often herald a long message that errs in every other respect on the side of impoliteness: “Stop pissing all over the lavatory like a fucking animal,” to take one recently spotted example. That is, admittedly, an unusual instance of the genre. The majority of polite notices have to do with cars and where not to put them, rather than with toilets and how not to treat them.

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In Prospect's July issue: Editor of Prospect Tom Clark tackles the major fault lines developing in the Conservative Party over Brexit, arguing that the issue could be one of those few occasions where the Tories can’t overcome a significant challenge. Alongside his lead essay, Andrew Gamble, professor of politics at the University of Sheffield, examines why many European parties on the right are struggling and why the continent should be worried. Conservative MP Lee Rowley charts what some of the policy areas that the Tories will have to deal with beyond Brexit if they are to get it right. Elsewhere in the issue: Nabeelah Jaffer tries to answer one of the most difficult questions of our time: how do you de-radicalise an extremist. Using examples from both the UK and Denmark, she argues that the UK model needs more work to be effective; Philip Collins asks why Britain’s towns have fallen by the wayside while its cities have thrived; and Sam Tanenhaus profiles “the real deal-maker” in Donald Trump’s White House, Mike Pompeo, after the Secretary of State oversaw the US-North Korea summit.
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