Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner has apologised for calling a Tory MP “scum” during a Commons debate on Covid-19 restrictions for Greater Manchester.
Chris Clarkson, who represents Heywood and Middleton, had said Labour was guilty of “opportunism” and “hindsight behaviour” after high-profile rows between mayor Andy Burnham and Downing Street.
He also criticised Labour shadow education secretary Kate Green, who recently was forced to apologise for saying Labour activists should not “let a good crisis go to waste”.
Rayner could be heard heckling Clarkson from her position on the Labour benches.
“Excuse me, did [Rayner] just call me scum?” Clarkson said.
Eleanor Laing, the deputy Speaker of the Commons, also intervened.
“From the frontbench, we will not have remarks like that, not under any circumstances, no matter how heartfelt it might be. Not at all,” she told Rayner.
Later on Wednesday evening, Rayner said: “I apologise for the language that I used in a heated debate in parliament earlier.”
It is understood that Rayner was upset at being accused of opportunism after opening the debate with comments about her aunt, who died of Covid-19 last week.
Rayner then called a point of order and claimed that Clarkson had been “saying things about the frontbench which are inaccurate in their speech and would ask [him] to withdraw it.”
Tory MPs lined up to call on Rayner to clarify her words and apologise.
Andrew Bowie, Conservative MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, tweeted: “Absolutely disgraceful. @AngelaRayner is the deputy leader of the Labour Party. She should be ashamed and @Keir_Starmer should make her apologise.
“We’ve become numb to abusive language in politics on social media – let’s not take it into the chamber of the House of Commons.”
The incident was raised again at the end of the debate.
Conservative Katherine Fletcher, who represents South Ribble, accused Rayner of having “shamed Manchester”.
Raising a point of order, she said: “Is it in order for a senior member of the Labour front bench opposite, (Rayner), to call repeatedly out ‘scum’ when my colleague was talking and then to fail to retract it or apologise?
“Today she has shamed Manchester, shamed this House and she should apologise.”
It came as part of a debate on a Labour motion calling for the government to publish “clear and fair national criteria” for financial support for businesses facing local lockdowns.
It comes after Burnham and other city leaders refused to accept a £60m deal, saying the city needed £65m for businesses and workers hit by closures to make it through a winter of restrictions.
Only £22m has so far been agreed with Boris Johnson overruling leaders to impose restrictions from Friday regardless, but the government has said the £60m remains “on the table”.
South Yorkshire is the latest area to be pushed into tier 3 restrictions.
While two north west Tory MPs, Chris Green and William Wragg rebelled over the motion, MPs voted against it by 261 to 340, with a majority 79.