Angela Rayner has defended calling Boris Johnson and Conservative ministers “scum” during a Labour conference event, insisting she will only apologise when the prime minister retracts past “homophobic” and “racist” remarks.
Doubling dow on her comments made during the first day of Labour’s annual conference in Brighton, Labour’s deputy leader said o Sunday “leaving children hungry” in the midst of a pandemic was “pretty scummy”.
However, her remarks have provoked anger from Conservative cabinet ministers, including the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, who said they were “appalling”.
In comments reported by the Daily Mirror, Ms Rayner told Labour activists she was sick of “shouting from the sidelines”, adding: “We cannot get any worse than a bunch of scum, homophobic, misogynistic, absolute vile [inaudible] Banana Republic, vile, nasty, Etonian [inaudible] piece of scum”.
The Conservative minister Amanda Milling said Ms Rayner’s comments were “completely unacceptable” and demanded an apology from Labour’s deputy leader. “As elected representatives we have a duty to lead by example,” she added.
Oliver Dowden, the chair of the party, added: “We need to make politics better not drag it into the gutter. Let’s see if we get an apology.”
But on Sky News, Ms Rayner defended the attack — delivered during a reception at Labour’s Brighton conference — stressing that it was levelled at senior ministers and Mr Johnson, rather than Conservative voters in general.
“That was post-watershed with a group of activists at an event last night,” she said on Sunday, stressing the prime minister had failed to apologise for his previous remarks “that are homophobic, that are racist, that are misogynistic”.
“When the prime minister uses language like calling Muslim women letterboxes that has an effect,” she said. “The fact he hasn’t apologised for that then for me, I don’t think he’s fit to govern.”
Ms Rayner added: “Any who leaves children hungry during a pandemic and can give billions of pounds to their mates on WhatsApp, I think that was pretty scummy.
“Let me contextualise it — it’s a phrase that you would hear very often in northern, working-class towns that we’d even say jovially to other people, we’d 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.”
Asked whether she would apologise for the remarks on Saturday evening, Ms Rayner said: “If the prime minister wants to apologise and remove himself from those comments that he’s made… then I will apologise for calling him scummy.”