Former Commons Speaker John Bercow has defended Angela Rayner for calling the Conservatives “scum”, saying she is “passionate” and a “damned good person”.
Bercow, who joined the party recently and was speaking at his first party conference, also issued a defence of Labour leader Keir Starmer, calling him a “good guy” with a “great brain”.
The ex-Tory MP also used the event to rule out running for parliament again when asked by a constituency party chair if he would like to be their candidate.
“I feel liberated as a member of the Labour party, but do I want to stand for parliament again, no I don’t,” he said.
The Labour party conference has been overshadowed by comments made by Rayner at a Saturday evening fringe event, in which she called the Conservatives “scum, homophobic, racist, misogynistic”.
But Bercow said that while he himself wouldn’t use such language – and that it would have been deemed unparliamentary – “people are passionate”.
“I know Angela well and she is a passionate person and she believes in her values, she feels very, very angry about what is being done to this country by the Conservative government,” he said.
“So if you’re asking me would I plan to use such language I wouldn’t...but people make mistakes and it’s up to Angela to say whether she thinks it was a mistake or not.
“Do I think Angela Rayner should be damned to perdition for that one comment, absolutely not.
“Angela Rayner is a damned good person, she’s got strong good values.”
The former speaker was also asked about Starmer and his leadership of the party, which has taken a knock after Andy McDonald resigned from the shadow cabinet on Monday.
“I think that Keir has got a great brain and he was extremely effective in debate and I witnessed him from the speaker’s chair with a really sort of remorseless, incisive, persistent, clinical approach – a very, very good debater.
“And I think he will gradually come across to the public – as he deserves to do – as someone who has come into politics to advance the interests of people other than, and frequently less, fortunate than himself.
“And I invite you to...tax your imagination to the limit, in asking yourself the question: can you, on any day of the year, imagine the right honourable gentleman the member of Uxbridge and South Ruislip, Mr Boris Alexander de Pfeffel Johnson, going to bed at night in a hot or cold sweat...worrying himself about how to advance the cause of people less fortunate than Boris Alexander de Pfeffel Johnson?
“Because if you can imagine that, all I can say to you is that you obviously have a very vivid imagination.”
Bercow also echoed criticisms made by Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham that Labour was running out of time to present policies to the public.
“The Labour party has got to develop a narrative, and it’s got over a year to develop clear policies.
“My own view...is that I don’t myself think that many people out there are much interested in the interstices of political parties and methods of electing leaders.
“The most important thing for the Labour party is to craft a vision of how Britain will look different and be better.”