Angela Rayner’s outburst is a gift to the Tory tacticians
But the Tories aren’t putting their usual spin on it
By Aidan Bridgeman
Image courtesy of Steve Eason via Flickr
Last week at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, the deputy leader, Angela Rayner MP, was recorded giving an impassioned rant about the conservatives and their government but, most particularly, about the nature of Tories themselves. It’s about time the Labour leadership had some character to it.
The controversy came from her use of the word ‘scum’ to describe the conservatives. She almost used every insult there was. Without a doubt, every single one was true. I agree with Jolyon Maugham from the Good Law project, stating on Good Morning Britain that the language used was ‘not strong enough’, frankly.
The conservatives, and I mean government ministers at that, have said way worse. Boris Johnson doesn’t even require heightened emotions and a crowd cheering on pumping up his adrenaline to squeeze out some controversial word or two; he does it regularly in everyday contexts. Rayner described her speech as ‘after the watershed’, whereas Johnson would happily say this during daytime TV.
I’m actually quite surprised that the Tories didn’t come out swinging, labelling Rayner as ‘unstable’, ‘emotional’, ‘uncivil’, etc. Which would have been obviously and incredibly sexist. Maybe they’ve learned their lesson from the whole Diane Abbott maths fiasco? It’s clear to me that anyone who hasn’t moved beyond Abbot’s blunder many years ago is sexist and racist. Anyway, I wouldn’t be surprised if, behind closed doors, Tories are saying these things anyway.
Rayner defended herself, saying that she used that language because it’s the language of the north, and that it’s typical street language where she comes from. As she said, leaving kids to go hungry, while giving your closest mates millions of pounds, is a pretty vile and scummy thing to do. She is absolutely justified in saying this. Michael Gove seemingly agrees, but in a more insulting kind of way. In a more ‘well she would say that, she’s from the north’ kind of way. Gove, too, suggested that Rayner used this language because she grew up in poverty. He even went on to admit that local Tory budget cuts damage people’s pride. So, he’s admitting fault while also understanding the negative outcomes from it and clearly spotting the link but yet seems to have absolutely no remorse whatsoever. Baffling. Yet unsurprising.
David Davis MP responded in a statement to Tory members, which widely reflects much of the commentary from other Tories, that Angela Rayner isn’t even a regular working-class member. Arguably true for Sir Keir Starmer, but not Angela Rayner. This is the current Tory tactic. There are many, many nasty and vile connotations to this.
Not only are the conservatives trying to break apart the working class and turn them against each other, they’re attempting to undermine any legitimacy that can come from being working class in the first place, that being that you actually reflect the policy needs, wants and desires of everyday people.
Equally, now it forces many on the left or liberal-left to feel that they need to prove their roots. The conservatives do this sometimes, sure, but often even the ruthless UK media see right through that charade. Constantly challenging those simply trying to work for their rights as workers to be improved, whether they have legitimate concerns regarding their upbringing and social status, draws more lines in the sand at more points. This ‘means tested’ epistemic injustice helps no one except those with capital and power to make any improvement to labour policy anywhere.