Charles Moore Charles Moore

In defence of Angela Rayner

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On the one occasion when I spent any time with Angela Rayner, she was funny, direct and friendly. We were both on the BBC’s Any Questions? in Alan Partridge territory and dined together beforehand with Sir Vince Cable. She got through a whole evening without identifying me, either privately or on air, as one of ‘a bunch of scum, homophobic, racist, misogynistic, absolute pile of banana republic, Etonian piece of scum’ (her chosen words at this week’s party conference fringe meeting). True, I am neither a government minister nor a Conservative (in the Lords I sit as ‘non-affiliated’), but she probably felt I was that sort of person. So, now I know how she sometimes talks, I feel grateful for her restraint. It is interesting she feels the need to speak as she did among the party faithful in order to improve her political chances. There is an asymmetry here. When Tories get together, they take just as much pleasure in remarks against their opponents as do Labour activists, but I honestly think that if a person of equivalent stature to Ms Rayner in his/her party — Michael Gove, say — were to describe the shadow cabinet as ‘a rainbow sisterhood of screeching republican comprehensive-school revolutionary filth’, or some equivalent right-wing choice of insults, he would not be cheered to the rafters. Someone would slip out a recording of his words and he would immediately have to resign. Why this difference? It is not a question of moral superiority, but of whether you want to win. The party Angela Rayner was courting is still not serious about being able to govern.

By the way, was she wise to use the phrase ‘banana republic’? It is dangerous, in Rayner circles, to use the word ‘banana’ unfavourably.

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