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27 September 2021

Angela Rayner is told to apologise for calling Tories “scum” as Labour row deepens

The shadow Scotland secretary tells the New Statesman: “I wouldn't describe anyone as scum and I think politicians need to lead by example”.

By Tim Ross and Anoosh Chakelian

Angela Rayner should apologise for calling Conservatives “scum,” one of her own shadow cabinet colleagues has said, as Labour’s deputy leader faces a growing backlash over her anti-Tory outburst.

In an interview with the New Statesman, Ian Murray, the shadow Scotland secretary, called on Rayner to “reflect” on what she had done and say sorry. Political discourse must be “compassionate and respectful of each other”, he said.

“I wouldn’t describe anyone as scum and I think politicians need to lead by example,” Murray said, speaking on the sidelines of an event at the Labour conference in Brighton on Monday 27 September. “They need to watch what they’re saying.”

Murray said Rayner should learn “pretty quickly” that her comments about Tories were distracting attention from Labour’s policies. “Let’s have a proper, fiery debate about the issues without insults,” he said. “I think it would be worth an apology, and I think it would do an awful lot of good to Angela to apologise as well – and I think it would do an awful lot for our political discourse.”

Rayner has been under fire since she described Conservatives as “scum” at a late-night fringe event on 25 September. Labour leader Keir Starmer distanced himself from her comments, as have other senior MPs. On Monday, Rayner doubled down on her remarks, saying she would apologise, if Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologises for “comments that are racist, homophobic and sexist”.

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Speaking to the New Statesman, Murray also appealed to Conservatives to moderate their comments after Conservative MP James Gray apologised for joking in a WhatsApp message that “a bomb” should be sent to a Labour MP.

“All of that inflamed rhetoric really has to stop and be dialled down,” Murray said. “It does our politics a disservice, which means it does the public a disservice and just moves politics much further away from where the ordinary voter is in the street.”

During another New Statesman panel, Wes Streeting, Labour’s shadow child poverty secretary, said his party shouldn’t “demonise voters” adding that Conservatives in government are “not evil”. Asked specifically about Rayner’s scum comment, he appeared to make light of the row. “Ange is Ange, as they used to say about John Prescott, ‘John is John,’” Streeting said. “Look, Labour conference can be a passionate place. Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak do not go into work everyday wanting to plunge children into poverty but because they don’t know what life is like for most people, that is exactly what they do and it’s a political choice.”

[See also: Kermit was right: being green isn’t easy, for politicians like Boris Johnson]

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