Angela Rayner has refused to apologise for a late-night attack on “scum, homophobic, racist, misogynistic” Boris Johnson and his Cabinet at an event for Labour members.
The deputy Labour leader gave the Prime Minister’s party both barrels in a late-night fringe at the Labour Party Conference.
Her comments led to angry demands from Conservative politicians for Ms Rayner to apologise, and accusations that she was “talking crap”.
But Ms Rayner refused to apologise today, telling Sky News: “I am not saying that anyone who voted for the Conservatives are racist, scummy and homophobic… I’m saying the Prime Minister has said those things and acted in that way.
“If the Prime Minister wants to apologise and remove himself from those comments he’s made that are homophobic, racist and misogynistic then I will apologise for calling him scummy.”
Labour leader Keir Starmer refused three times to say if Ms Rayner should apologise, saying “that’s a matter for Angela”. He told the BBC: “I take different approaches and that is not language I would use.” But he added: “I’ll talk to Angela about it later on.”
Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy told Times Radio: “It’s not my preferred choice of words. I’m not very interested in insulting the Tories. I just want to get rid of them.
“I think they’re doing enormous damage to people in this country.
“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.”
Ms Rayner was speaking at a reception for Labour members in the North West of England at the get-together in Brighton.
She began with jokes about the notorious diet for stressed delegates at the jamboree, saying: “If you are what you eat I’m a pile of s*** tonight because I’ve eaten some pretty dodgy stuff.”
After unveiling a green paper on the future of employment, she said: “There was more meat in my speech today than in a chicken kebab down in Manchester”.
And she jokingly slapped down a heckler who apparently urged her to challenge Keir Starmer, saying: “You’ve had all the wine that I haven’t had mate!”
It was her closing plea for Labour to get into power that sparked anger from a senior Tory.
Ms Rayner told members “we’re at a cross roads” like in 1945, saying: “We face a global threat again. Many of our comrades haven’t made it.
“Everyone in this room will know somebody who’s been seriously ill or died from Covid. We’ve been through so much and deserve so much better than what we’ve got.”
She added: “I’m sick of shouting from the sidelines and I bet youse lot are as well.
“We cannot get any worse than a bunch of scum, homophobic, racist, misogynistic, absolute vile [inaudible] Banana Republic, vile, nasty, Etonian [inaudible] piece of scum.”
To applause, she added she had “held back a little”.
Ian Vogler / Daily Mirror)
Tory minister Amanda Milling said the Labour MP’s remarks were “shocking”, adding: “Angela Rayner must apologise.”
She said Ms Rayner had been former leader Jeremy Corbyn’s “henchman when Labour became embroiled in anti-Semitism” and “she failed to act”.
Fellow Foreign Office minister James Cleverly accused Ms Rayner of “talking crap”. He said: “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.”
Ms Rayner refused to back down when quizzed on her comments today.
She told Sky News she was trying to get “fire in the belly” of activists “late at night”, adding: “That was post watershed as we’d say with a group of activists at an event last night.
“What I was trying to get across, and it is my passionate way in which I do it, is the anger and frustration that people feel when you have a Prime Minister who has said things and not apologised for them that are racist, misogynist, homophobic – that has given billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to their mates and literally wasted that money at a time when they’re cutting Universal Credit, plunging families into crisis and the cost of living is going up.”
Asked if she was condemning all Tories she replied: “Let me be clear, I’m talking about members of the Cabinet.
“You’ve got the Home Secretary who has bullied senior civil servants, breached the ministerial code, had private meetings without civil servants present and nothing’s been done about that.”
Priti Patel has denied bullying and was found by an investigation to have breached the ministerial code over bullying claims, but Boris Johnson overturned the finding and found she did not breach it.
Ms Rayner said: “Anyone who leaves children hungry during a pandemic and can give billions of pounds to their mates on WhatsApp I think that was pretty scummy.
“That is a phrase you would hear very often in northern working class towns, we’d even say it jovially to other people.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said Ms Rayner should “just apologise” rather than “talking around” the subject.
It came as a Tory MP apologised for making a sick joke about delivering a “bomb” to Labour MP Anneliese Dodds’ office.
James Gray admitted his comment on a Tory WhatsApp group was “foolish” as it emerged at the start of Labour’s party conference in Brighton.
The conference is held next-door to the Grand Hotel, where an IRA bomb during the Tories’ 1984 conference killed five people.
According to the Mail on Sunday, Mr Gray replied to a comment on a WhatsApp group from fellow Conservative MP Rob Largan.
Mr Largan had said: “Does anybody know where Anneliese Dodds’ Commons office is based? I need to deliver something to her office.”
Mr Gray replied: “A bomb, perhaps?”
After being contacted by the Mirror, Mr Gray confirmed he made the remarks saying: “This was a foolish remark made on a private What’s App and deleted almost immediately.
“I meant no offence of any kind, and hope none was taken.”
Ian Vogler / Daily Mirror)
During her stump speech last night Ms Rayner also highlighted the examples of Labour in power, including mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham.
She said: “People who left Labour and didn’t feel we’re the answer to the question – we need to win them back.
“It’s really serious because hopefully the stories I tell about my childhood are not so people look at me and say ‘oh, look at her’.
“It’s to say look at what we did, look at what we achieved when we were in government, look at what we can do.”