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Angela Rayner opens up about growing up in poverty

Angela Rayner has told how she was once given dog food to eat when she was a child because her mother could not read labels on tins. 

The deputy leader of the Labour Party said she was also given ‘jelly and shaving foam’ because her mother ‘used to look on the pictures’ on products. 

The 41-year-old set out her experiences of growing up in poverty and said that in ‘modern times’ she ‘definitely’ would have been taken away by social services.   

Ms Rayner also revealed how she believes growing up in a ‘chaotic’ household helped prepare her to thrive in a post-Brexit Westminster. 

Angela Rayner has told how she was once given dog food to eat when she was a child because her mother could not read labels on tins

The 41-year-old set out her experiences of growing up in poverty and said that in 'modern times' she 'definitely' would have been taken away by social services. She is pictured visiting the Ladywell Centre in Lewisham, London, on September 23

The 41-year-old set out her experiences of growing up in poverty and said that in ‘modern times’ she ‘definitely’ would have been taken away by social services. She is pictured visiting the Ladywell Centre in Lewisham, London, on September 23

Ms Rayner opened up about her poverty-stricken upbringing on a council estate in Stockport, Greater Manchester, on the Full Disclosure podcast with James O’Brien. 

The MP for Ashton-under-Lyne left school aged 16 while pregnant with her first child.

Ms Rayner said in ‘modern days’ she and her siblings would ‘definitely’ have been taken into social services. Her mother, Lynn Bowen, suffered from mental health issues. 

Asked if she was ever in danger of being taken away by social services, Ms Rayner said: ‘I think, you know what, in modern days, definitely we would have gone.

‘But my nana bought our uniform so she would take us to the charity shop to get our uniform.

‘My mum couldn’t cook. I mean everything went in a frying pan. It was chips and chips, chips and sausage, literally everything went in the frying pan.

‘My mum used to give us jelly and shaving foam because she used to look on the pictures. She didn’t know what the food was in it.

‘You know, we had dog meat once because she thought it was stewing steak because she couldn’t read it.

‘We used to laugh about it and joke about it but in modern times we probably would have ended up in the system but because of my nana took a very keen interest… and she was there.’

Ms Rayner recounted how she and her siblings would go to her grandmother’s house for a bath because hot water was ‘too expensive’. 

She said: ‘My nana, she was on hand. She worked like three jobs. She grafted.

‘My nana lived in high rise flats so we used to joke because we would go to my nana’s for a bath because she had hot water.

‘We didn’t have hot water, it was too expensive, so we would traipse to my nana’s on a Sunday and all have a bath and we would go in rank order.

‘So my older brother would get the bath first, then my mum would get it and then me and my little sister would share the bath afterwards.’

Ms Rayner was first elected to the House of Commons in 2015 and she said she believes her background prepared her well for the political chaos in Westminster that followed the 2016 Brexit vote. 

Referring to career politicians, she said: ‘The whole thing being turned on its head and everybody not quite understanding what was going on was quite discombobulating for them but for me it was like “this is what I am used to, this is life for me as a working class kid growing up in a chaotic household and not knowing what was going to happen next is quite normal territory for me”. 

‘So I actually found it quite intriguing and energetic. I loved it.’  

Flame-haired ‘Grangela’ who overcame tough upbringing to reach the dizzy heights in Westminster  

Angela Rayner’s socialist credentials were forged by a tough upbringing as a carer to her bipolar mother aged just 10 before becoming pregnant with the first of her three children at the age of 16.

The flame-haired 41-year-old has drawn on her experience as a one-time struggling teenage mother throughout her political career.  

She proudly welcomed her own granddaughter at the age of just 37 in 2017 with a tweet jokingly referring to herself as ‘Grangela’ after son Ryan became a father to baby Lilith Mae.

Ms Rayner was just 16 when she had Ryan, and has told how becoming pregnant so young ‘saved’ her.

She has two other sons aged under 10, Jimmy and Charlie, who was born at 23 weeks and is registered blind.

She says Charlie would not be alive today without the NHS.

Her teenage relationship with Ryan’s father ended quickly and she married Unison official Mark Rayner. But they split up last summer.

She also acted as a carer to her mother, Lynn Bowen, when just a child.

In 202 she opened up about her tough early life, revealing she once had to have her sectioned to prevent her from self-harming. 

In a joint interview with ITV News, Ms Bowen credits her daughter with saving her, saying she would not have survived without her.

‘I was in a very dark place, she used to bath me, look after me, feed me,’ Ms Bowen said of her daughter.

‘If it wasn’t for her I don’t think I’d be here today.’

Ms Rayner  was only elected to Parliament as the Labour MP for Ashton-under-Lyne for the first time in 2015 but she has swiftly risen up the ranks to national prominence. 

It did not take long for her to be welcomed to the Labour frontbench under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn as she was made shadow education secretary in 2016. 

She became one of Mr Corbyn’s most vocal defenders, both in the House of Commons and on the airwaves, before the party sank to its disastrous general election defeat in December 2019. 

She swiftly launched a bid for the party’s deputy leadership in the aftermath of the car crash poll, standing on a so-called hard-left ‘dream ticket’ with Westminster housemate and former frontbencher Rebecca Long-Bailey who put herself forward for the top job. 

However, unlike Ms Long-Bailey, who rated Mr Corbyn’ leadership 10/10, she was unafraid to criticise him.

In February 2020 she said he failed as Labour leader because he ‘didn’t command respect’ and had not been able to unite the party. 

She also insisted she could succeed where Mr Corbyn had struggled because she ‘resonates with people in the country in a way that Jeremy doesn’t’. 

While Ms Long-Bailey failed to become leader, Ms Rayner was elected as Sir Keir Starmer’s deputy with an overwhelming mandate from party supporters.

Although there have been tensions with Sir Keir – most notably over a reshuffle where he seemingly made an abortive attempt to demote her – they seem to have reached an understanding in recent months.


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