'It's Street Language' - Angela Rayner Defends Calling Tories 'Scum'

Transport secretary Grant Shapps called on Labour's deputy leader to apologise and said her comments were “absolutely appalling”.
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner speaks at the Labour Party conference in Brighton.
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner speaks at the Labour Party conference in Brighton.
Stefan Rousseau - PA Images via Getty Images

Angela Rayner has defended calling Tories “scum” last night, saying it was her “street language”.

The deputy leader of the Labour Party launched an attack on Conservatives calling them “scum, homophobic, racist, misogynistic”.

She made the comments at a reception for Labour members in the north west of England at the party’s annual conference in Brighton.

The comments sparked a backlash from Tory MPs but Rayner stood by her words this morning, saying it was “post-watershed”.

She told Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday: “That was post-watershed as we’d say, with a group of activists at an event last night.”

Rayner said she was trying to get across in her “passionate way” the frustration and anger people feel over Boris Johnson’s comments and actions.

The senior MP said she would only apologise if Johnson said sorry for his past comments that she claimed were “homophobic, racist and misogynistic”.

Pressed on her comments, Rayner said she was talking about members of the cabinet.

She added: “Anyone who leaves children hungry during the pandemic and can give billions of pounds to their mates on WhatsApp, I think that was pretty scummy.

“Now that is a phrase, and let me contextualise it, it’s a phrase that 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. And that to me is my street language as you would say - about actually it’s pretty appalling that people think that’s okay to do.”

Last night Rayner said: “I’m sick of shouting from the sidelines and I bet you lot are as well. We cannot get any worse than a bunch of scum, homophobic, racist, misogynistic, absolute vile...Banana Republic, vile, nasty, Etonian...piece of scum.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the tirade was “not language that I would have used”.

He told BBC’s Andrew Marr Show it was a matter for Rayner whether she apologised but said he would speak to her about it.

“Angela and I take different approaches and that’s not language that I would use,” he said.

Asked if she should apologise, Starmer said: “That’s a matter for Angela… but I would not have used those words. I will talk to Angela about it later on.”

Labour former shadow chancellor John McDonnell rowed in behind Rayner, saying: “We’ve all been there, late at night, getting very angry about what’s going on. What I like about Angie Rayner is that she’s 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.”

Starmer was quizzed about Rayner's comments on the BBC's Andrew Marr show.
Starmer was quizzed about Rayner's comments on the BBC's Andrew Marr show.
Dan Kitwood via Getty Images

However, transport secretary Grant Shapps called on Rayner to apologise and said her comments were “absolutely appalling”.

The cabinet minister said: “There’s no place in public life for that sort of language, that sort of behaviour. I saw that she had described herself as being somebody who wanted to see a kinder kind of politics back in 2019. I’m very sorry that seems to have disappeared.”

He added: “I think it would be befitting if she actually just apologised, rather than talked around the subject.”

Tory MP Alec Shelbrooke told HuffPost UK: “It once again shows that Labour have nothing to offer the north other than bitter and nasty comments against those who northern voters elected over an out of touch Labour Party.”

Meanwhile red wall Tory MP Ric Holden added: “This sort of behaviour shows that under Keir Starmer the Labour Party are actually going backwards from where they were even under Jeremy Corbyn.”

Foreign Office minister James Cleverly also hit back, tweeting: “I’m sure this went down well in the room but when voters look at the party that has had both female PMs, with half of the great offices of state filled by women, half by Bame, most diverse government, more gay ministers than Labour ever had etc they’ll know she’s talking crap.”