Jeremy Corbyn has waded into the Angela Rayner ‘Tory scum’ row insisting she was just ‘saying it like it needs to be said’
The former leader said Ms Rayner had ‘nothing to apologise for’ after she branded Boris Johnson and top ministers ‘a bunch of scum, homophobic, racist, misogynistic’ at Labour’s conference.
The late-night tirade privately infuriated shadow cabinet colleagues who pointed out she was effectively insulting millions of voters, while Sir Keir Starmer issued a sharp rebuke by making clear he would not use such language.
However, he stopped short of ordering his deputy to apologise, amid signs she is manoeuvring for a tilt at his job.
Mr Corbyn, who is still suspended from the parliamentary party but in Brighton for the annual gathering, stirred the pot last night.
‘Angela uses her own words. She is absolutely right to attack this government for the way it is treating people in our society,’ he told LBC.
‘I don’t think she has anything to apologise for. She speaks from the heart.’
Mr Corbyn also took aim at Sir Keir over his changes to Labour’s internal rules, seemingly designed to prevent a hard-Left figure becoming leader again.
The overhaul narrowly passed conference last night to the delight of moderates – although some elements had to be dropped beforehand.
Mr Corbyn said: ‘Angela’s right to go after the Tories. I wish this whole conference was going after the Tories not rule changes.’
Sir Keir and Ms Rayner put on an awkward show of unity on the conference stage last night, but their tensions were plain to see.
In her late-night rant on Saturday, Ms Rayner said she was ‘sick of shouting from the sidelines’ at ‘a bunch of scum, homophobic, racist, misogynistic, absolute pile of… banana republic… Etonian… piece of scum’.
Sir Keir and Ms Rayner put on an awkward show of unity on the conference stage last night, but their tensions were plain to see
Labour was branded the ‘true nasty party’ after Angela Rayner described the Tories as racist ‘scum’
Angela’s smashes: Rayner’s plain-talking blasts at Tories
Angela Rayner has increasingly taken on a role as Labour’s straight-talking battering ram with blunt jibes at the Tories.
As Keir Starmer’s deputy she is increasingly the go-to for soundbites attacking Tory sleaze with withering assessments of Government and Conservative Party failings.
When Gavin Williamson was sacked as education secretary earlier this month she did not hold back in her assessment of his time in office, saying: ‘That prat’s absolute idiocy, failures and uselessness have damaged the life chances of our country’s children and this government has failed young people, teachers and education staff.’
Last week she took on Dominic Raab at Prime Minister’s Questions in the absence of Boris Johnson. What the session lacked in forensic detail, she made up for in put-downs, including targeting Raab’s ill-fated holiday while Afghanistan fell. ‘I notice we have a shortage of hot air this week – just as the Prime Minister isn’t here, but the Deputy Prime Minister is doing his best to shore up supplies,’ she said. ‘Maybe he should go back to his sun-lounger and let me take over.’
She has also targeted the PM directly, when he faced criticism over the funding for a five-figure renovation of his Downing Street flat. She said: ‘The Prime Minister appears to be allergic to telling the truth about the dodgy dealings and the web of conflicts of interests, secret loans and cover ups that hang over him like a bad smell.’
Her ‘scum’ comments at the party conference on Sunday night came almost a year after she was forced to apologise for similar language in the Commons.
Last October she unloaded on Tory backbencher Chris Clarkson after he suggested that the Labour frontbench was viewing the pandemic as a ‘good crisis’ to be exploited.
She heckled Mr Clarkson, who asked: ‘Excuse me, did the honourable lady just call me scum?’
The exchange prompted an intervention from a furious Commons Deputy Speaker Dame Eleanor Laing who said she would not accept such comments in the chamber ‘under any circumstances’.
Ms Rayner apologised for branding Mr Clarkson ‘scum’ but stopped short of a retraction.
A defiant Mrs Rayner told Sky News her ‘post-watershed’ comments were designed to put ‘fire in the belly’ of party activists during a conference reception.
She claimed that her language was the kind ‘you would hear very often in northern working-class towns, we even say it jovially to other people, we say ‘it’s a scummy thing to do’ and that to me is my street language’.
And she refused to apologise unless the Prime Minister first said sorry for ‘comments he has made that are homophobic, racist and misogynistic’.
Sir Keir was visibly uncomfortable when quizzed about her remarks during a set piece TV interview which he had hoped to use to set out his stall as this week’s conference got under way.
‘Angela and I take different approaches and that is not language that I would use,’ he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show.
Sir Keir said her comments were part of ‘a fizz of ideas, there are arguments, disagreements, comings together’.
Asked whether she should apologise, he said it was ‘a matter for Angela, but I would not have used those words’. He said he would ‘talk to Angela about it later on’.
Labour officials later declined to comment on the details of his meeting with his fiery deputy.
Ms Rayner was more restrained during appearances on the conference fringe, telling laughing delegates: ‘I’m choosing my words very carefully.’ Labour’s deputy has made little secret of her belief that she would make a more effective leader than Sir Keir.
Senior figures fear the tension could now overshadow a conference seen as a ‘make or break’ event for Sir Keir’s leadership.
In a round of interviews this morning, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said she would not have called Boris Johnson’s Government ‘scum’ – as deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner did – although she claimed many people shared that sentiment.
‘I understand why Angela Rayner’s angry, we are all angry with what the Government are doing at our conference here in Brighton this week,’ Ms Reeves told Times Radio.
‘I wouldn’t use that language but I think that sentiment is shared by many people who are struggling at the moment, queuing for petrol, who are worried about cuts to Universal Credit next month and worried about increases in taxes next year.’
Senior Tories yesterday condemned Mrs Rayner’s language, pointing out it is just two years since she lectured fellow politicians on their ‘responsibility to look at making sure our discourse and disagreements are done in a respectful way’.
Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden said her comments provided further evidence ‘today’s Labour Party exudes a sense of looking down on people who believe in this country, including the many millions who voted Conservative at the last election’.
Mr Dowden said: ‘For all the Left’s talk about kindness and compassion they tend to produce the worst vitriol, abuse, intolerance of other views. It’s in hardline elements… that you find the true nasty party.’
Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said voters would see a Tory party which has had two female prime ministers and the ‘most diverse government’ and ‘they’ll know she’s talking c***’. Some senior Labour figures also questioned Mrs Rayner’s tactics, amid fears they could further alienate ‘red wall’ voters who defected to the Tories.
Keir Starmer said he would not have used the hate-filled words aimed at the Tories by his deputy Angela Rayner. He is pictured posing for a selfie yesterday
Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy and former leader Ed Miliband both declined to defend her comments.
Former Labour Cabinet minister Lord Adonis said Mrs Rayner’s intervention had been designed to trigger a leadership contest – and called on Sir Keir to sack her if she refused to resign.
Michael Dugher, former Labour frontbencher, said: ‘Actually, lots and lots of people in ‘northern working class towns’ don’t call Tories ‘scum’. They vote for them. Labour need to face up to that reality and rise to the challenge.’