STEPHEN POLLARD: Angela Rayner has delivered a bile-flecked rant from the real party of hate
Angela Rayner has form for using appalling vituperative language to delight the most rabid far-Left activists.
Her bizarre rant in which she informed Labour party delegates that the Conservatives were ‘a bunch of scum, homophobic, racist, misogynistic, absolute pile… of banana republic… Etonian piece of scum… that I have ever seen in my life’ was entirely of a piece with a woman who has made hatred of the other side her stock-in-trade.
A slip of the mask it may have been – but it was no slip of the tongue. It was exactly what Labour’s deputy leader thinks: indeed only last October, she called a Tory backbencher ‘scum’ during a debate in the Commons – prompting a furious rebuke from the Deputy Speaker. Mrs Rayner apologised but refused to retract her statement.
Angela Rayner has form for using appalling vituperative language to delight the most rabid far-Left activists
Such angry, bile-flecked outbursts may thrill a portion of Labour activists. But they repel most voters.
And they vividly show how far Sir Keir Starmer has to go to persuade the electorate that Labour really has escaped its Corbynite past. To deal briefly with Mrs Rayner’s claims about the Tories: the Chancellor, Home Secretary, Business Secretary, Education Secretary and Attorney General, to name just a few, are all from BAME backgrounds. And almost a quarter of the Cabinet are women.
Meanwhile, some 24 Tory MPs are openly gay (compared with just 17 Labour MPs): odd when the Conservatives are apparently so institutionally homophobic.
But dispensing with her argument is easy. Far more revealing is what her words say about her and the hard-Left fringe she represents. In truth, Labour’s extremist wing is infinitely more hateful than anything that would be permitted within the Tories.
John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow chancellor, once airily opined: ‘I would like to go back to the 1980s and assassinate Margaret Thatcher.’
Such angry, bile-flecked outbursts may thrill a portion of Labour activists. But they repel most voters. And they vividly show how far Sir Keir Starmer has to go to persuade the electorate that Labour really has escaped its Corbynite past
Former shadow international development secretary Kate Osamor, on being approached by a journalist who had asked her about employing her own son in her parliamentary office, threw a cup of water over the reporter, told him to ‘f*** off’ and declared: ‘I should have come down here with a bat and smashed your face in.’
And when a row kicked up last year over whether or not Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Britannia would be played at the Proms, Labour MP Neil Coyle weighed in against the ‘absolute sh***** racist w******’ who hoped to see tradition maintained. Corbyn used to boast about a ‘kinder, gentler politics’.
But as the appalling revelations about anti-Semitism in his own party showed, the true party of hate has long been Labour. After all, if you’re ‘good’ and your enemies are ‘bad’, then anything goes.
Corbyn used to boast about a ‘kinder, gentler politics’. But as the appalling revelations about anti-Semitism in his own party showed, the true party of hate has long been Labour
But while the most crass insults may thrill her hard-Left backers, here’s a tip for Rayner & Co. You don’t win elections by being as vicious as you can about the Tories. A glance at history would have taught you this.
In 1948, Labour’s health minister Nye Bevan notoriously said that the Tories were ‘lower than vermin’, adding for good measure that ‘Toryism’ and ‘intelligence’ were ‘a contradiction in terms’. In other words, Conservative voters who had switched to Labour at the 1945 election and made Clement Attlee prime minister were all idiots.
Labour’s majority was slashed at the next election, and the party lost the following three contests. All too often the party behaves as if it hates the very people whose votes it needs to win.
In 2019, seat after seat that had been solidly Labour for generations – the so-called ‘red wall’ – fell to the Tories.
By clear implication, then, Mrs Rayner believes that former Labour voters in those seats are ‘scum’, or at the very least people who vote for scum.
Yesterday, Mrs Rayner insisted: ‘I’m not saying anybody who voted Conservative are those things. I’m saying the Prime Minister has said those things and acted in that way.’
We shall see if voters accept this.
This sorry spat, which has cast an ugly shadow over conference, crystallises the problem at the heart of a once- great movement.
Labour has been poisoned for decades by the likes of Mrs Rayner, for whom the point of politics is to generate a pulpit for their outrage and hate, rather than winning elections and governing.
She and her ilk do their party – and indeed the country, which like all democracies benefits from a strong opposition – a great disservice.
Sir Keir had one last chance to show voters this week that Labour represented a government-in-waiting. Mrs Rayner’s outburst may have killed it.
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