Angela Rayner has declined to apologise for calling the Conservatives “scum”, saying she was using “street language” to convey her “anger and frustration” at the actions of the government.
Her defence came as a Tory MP apologised for suggesting a bomb should be planted in a Labour frontbencher’s office.
James Gray claimed he meant “no offence” with the comment about Labour Party chair Anneliese Dodds that he posted in a WhatsApp group.
Speaking to Trevor Phillips on Sunday on Sky News about her own comments, Labour’s deputy leader said they were made “post-watershed…with a group of activists at an event last night” at the party’s annual conference in Brighton.
Ms Rayner said she was trying to convey in a “passionate way” the “anger and frustration that people feel when you have a prime minister, who has said things and not apologised that are racist, that are misogynistic, that are homophobic, that has given billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to their mates and literally wasted that money”.
She continued: “My passion was about look, we can’t sit on the sidelines here, we have to get organised.
“I was speaking to a group of activists to say you’ve got to get that fire in your belly.”
According to the Daily Mirror, she told the event on Saturday night: “We cannot get any worse than a bunch of scum, homophobic, racist, misogynistic, absolute vile… banana republic, vile, nasty, Etonian… piece of scum.”
To applause, Ms Rayner added that she had “held back a little”.
Analysis by Jon Craig, chief political correspondent
When Sir Keir Starmer was asked about his deputy Angela Rayner’s “scum” outburst, he said: “That’s not language that I would use.”
It was similar to Tony Blair’s reaction to his deputy, John Prescott, punching a voter during the 2001 general election campaign. “John is John,” Mr Blair said wearily.
According to political folklore, “Two Jabs” – as he was instantly named – responded by saying: “Well, Tony, you did say I should connect with the voters.”
So Sir Keir’s “Angela is Angela” response was entirely predictable. He knows that while his deputy’s language may have been uncouth, she does – like Mr Prescott – connect with voters.
She has form for calling a Tory opponents “scum”. During a heated Commons debate on COVID-19 last October she shouted the word at a Tory backbencher, Chris Clarkson, earning herself a ticking off from deputy speaker Dame Eleanor Laing, who was in the Chair.
But don’t expect Sir Keir to reprimand her this time. She speaks the language of working class voters, like John Prescott. And Labour certainly needs to do that.
Questioned about the comments on Sky News, Labour’s deputy leader said she was referring to Boris Johnson and his top team of ministers.
And she doubled down on it, declaring: “I think anyone who leaves children hungry during a pandemic and can give billions of pounds for their mates on WhatsApp, I think that was pretty scummy.
“It’s a phrase you would hear very often in northern working class towns, that we’d even say it jovially to other people, we say it’s a scummy thing to do.
“That to me is my street language, as you would say, about actually it’s pretty appalling that people think that’s OK to do.”
Ms Rayner stressed she was not saying that anyone who voted for the party was “scum”, adding: “I’m not saying anybody who voted Conservative are those things, I’m saying the prime minister has said those things and acted in that way.”
Referring to past comments from Mr Johnson, which includes him comparing burka-wearing Muslim women to “letter boxes” and describing gay men as “tank-topped bum boys”, she continued: “If the prime minister wants to apologise and remove himself from those comments that he’s made that are homophobic, that are racist, that are misogynistic then I will apologise for calling him scummy.”
The PM has been challenged numerous times over the years about some of his past comments.
Questioned by Sky News back in 2019, during his successful campaign to become Tory leader, Mr Johnson said he would not be “muffled” and “will continue to speak directly”.
“If sometimes in the course of trying to get across what I genuinely think, I use phrases and language that have caused offence, of course I’m sorry for the offence that I have caused,” Mr Johnson told Sky’s political editor Beth Rigby.
Asked about his deputy’s remarks, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show it was “not language that I would use”.
Pressed on whether Ms Rayner should apologise, he said: “That’s a matter for Angela. I would not have used those words.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the comments were “absolutely appalling” and Ms Rayner should say sorry.
“There’s just no place in public life for that sort of language, that sort of behaviour,” he told Sky News.
Conservative chairman Oliver Dowden said: “At a time when the country is trying to pull together to recover from COVID, the last thing we need is the deputy leader of the Labour Party calling people ‘scum’ and yelling insults.
“We need to make politics better, not drag it into the gutter. Let’s see if we get an apology.”
Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said Ms Rayner was “talking crap”.
But Labour’s former shadow chancellor John McDonnell defended the party’s deputy leader, telling Trevor Phillips on Sunday she was “human”.
“She may well drop herself in it, just as I have time and time again, but she’s human and she has human emotions and when you get angry about something sometimes the language that you use might be over the top,” he said.
Speaking to Times Radio, shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said “it’s not my preferred choice of words”.
“I’m as angry as Angela is about the damage that they’re doing, but I’m less interested in talking about them and more interested in putting forward an alternative,” she said.
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Mr Gray’s “bomb” remark was reported by the Mail on Sunday, who said it came in exchange with fellow Conservative Robert Largan.
“Does anybody know where Anneliese Dodds’ Commons office is based? I need to deliver something to her office,” Mr Largan wrote.
Mr Gray replied: “A bomb, perhaps?”
Mr Largan said he was making a “polite request” for directions so as to hand deliver a letter and called for his Tory colleague to apologise for the “completely and utterly inappropriate” remark.
“I think it’s important that he has apologised,” Ms Dodds told HuffPost UK about the comment.
Source : skynews