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12 April 2024updated 15 Apr 2024 9:17am

Will Angela Rayner’s gamble pay off?

The Labour deputy leader’s pledge to resign if she is found to have broken the law has dramatically raised the stakes.

By Freddie Hayward

The stakes in the controversy surrounding Angela Rayner’s tax affairs have soared. The Labour deputy leader has said she will resign if the police find that she has committed a criminal offence. The move comes after Greater Manchester Police reopened an investigation into whether Rayner broke electoral law by giving the wrong address as her primary residence.

This is a separate issue to the accusation that she did not pay the correct amount of capital gains tax on the sale of her house in Vicarage Road in 2015. The police have reopened the investigation after they said Tory MP James Daly complained about their handling of the case. In a statement Rayner said: “I’ve repeatedly said I would welcome the chance to sit down with the appropriate authorities, including the police and HMRC, to set out the facts and draw a line under this matter. I am completely confident I’ve followed the rules at all times.”

Her promise to resign has clear parallels with Keir Starmer’s vow to stand down if he was found to have broken lockdown rules during the row that became known as “beergate”. That controversy in May 2022 also took place during a local election campaign. Many in Labour think the Conservatives are using the same playbook: disrupt Labour’s election campaign to distract from their own failings. The Tories naturally disagree. For them, this is fair game: Rayner has been a fierce critic of Conservative sleaze and alleged corruption. It’s only right that she be held to the same standard.  

Some in Labour think that if the police find that there is no case to answer then the matter will finally be closed. If not, then Rayner will stand down, wrenching a key player in Starmer’s campaign for government off the pitch. This has become a crisis for the deputy leader. Starmer was cleared by the police and the focus quickly shifted back to the partygate scandal that led to Boris Johnson’s downfall. The question now is whether Rayner’s own gamble pays off. She seems confident that it will.

[See also: Can a Labour government avoid early unpopularity?]

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