Matthew Taylor

Sunday shows round-up: Rayner challenges Boris to apologise first

Sunday shows round-up: Rayner challenges Boris to apologise first
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Angela Rayner: The cabinet are ‘scum’

If the Labour party was hoping to make the headlines this morning, they were in luck. The party’s conference is underway in Brighton, and it had been expected that much of the focus would be on Sir Keir Starmer’s efforts to reform the way the party elects its leader. However, it is the deputy leader Angela Rayner who has stolen the limelight so far, with remarks she made at an event last night. While addressing activists, she referred to prominent Conservatives as ‘homophobic, racist, misogynistic… scum’. Trevor Phillips picked her up on the choice word ‘scum’, upon which Rayner doubled down, especially singling out the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary Priti Patel as the intended objects of her fury:

AR: Anyone who leaves children hungry during a pandemic… I think that’s pretty scummy… That to me, is my street language.

If the PM will apologise, so will I

Phillips pursued the matter further, asking Rayner if her feelings extended to her constituents, of whom over 14,000 voted Conservative at the last election. Rayner rejected the opportunity to apologise to those voters, arguing that there was no bad blood intended on this front. Instead, she laid down the gauntlet to Boris Johnson:

AR: If the Prime Minister wants to remove himself from… the racist, misogynistic, homophobic comments that he’s made… then I will apologise to him personally for calling him ‘scum’.

Keir Starmer: ‘Scum’ is not language I would use

Andrew Marr went on to interview the Labour leader himself. Marr asked Starmer if he had anything he wanted to say to Rayner after her outburst. Starmer shied away from criticising his deputy or asking her to apologise to her political adversaries:

KS: Angela… takes a different approach to me… It’s not language that I would have used.

Worker shortages down to ‘total lack of planning’

Starmer sharply criticised the government for its approach to managing worker shortages. Industries such as hospitality and road haulage have not been able to attract enough staff, with the latter contributing towards the current fuel crisis. When asked by Marr, Starmer did not reject the possibility of granting up to 100,000 short-term visas for foreign lorry drivers to fill the gaps. Starmer rejected the suggestion that, if this policy was pursued in road haulage and other key industries, it would amount once again to freedom of movement from EU countries:

KS: It is a complete lack of planning… [We have] a Prime Minister who cannot take key decisions.

Labour won’t necessarily repeal NI rise

Marr asked Starmer if he would reverse the recent rise in National Insurance announced by the government. Despite Starmer’s past attacks on the tax, claiming that it would unfairly punish young people, Marr did not get a clear indication that the increase was not here to stay under a Labour government:

KS: Our alternative would be that those with the broadest shoulders pay… When we get to the election we will set out our stall… We will not unfairly burden working people.

I will not nationalise the Big Six energy companies

Marr pressed Starmer repeatedly on his policy relating to the ‘Big Six’ energy companies. Starmer seemed to pull the rug out from under his Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband, telling Marr that he would not be nationalising the companies, despite arguing that they should be in ‘public hands’. Instead, Starmer argued for a ‘pragmatic approach’ to ‘common ownership’

KS: When it comes to common ownership, I’m pragmatic about this… Where common ownership is value for money… then there should be common ownership.

‘Only women have a cervix’ shouldn’t be said

Marr asked about Rosie Duffield, the MP for Canterbury who will not be attending the Labour conference this year due to concerns that she might be harassed for her comment that ‘only women have a cervix’. Marr asked Starmer if he had an issue with her remarks:

AM: Is it transphobic to say only women have a cervix?

KS: It is something that shouldn’t be said. It is not right… I am very concerned that this debate is something that needs to be conducted in a proper way, in which proper views are expressed.

Grant Shapps: There is plenty of petrol to go round

Marr also spoke to the Transport Secretary about the fuel crisis. Shapps insisted that people should not panic buy fuel, as fuel itself was not in short supply. Shapps blamed the Road Haulage Association for ‘fairly irresponsible briefing’ contributing to the general uncertainty, and did not rule out using the army to help distribute fuel around the country if need be:

GS: Only fill up when you need to. There is plenty of petrol to go round… We’ll do whatever we need to do to make things flow.

John McDonnell: I like that Angela Rayner is ‘human’

And finally, the former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell sprang to the defence of his former Shadow Cabinet comrade Angela Rayner:

JR: What I like about Angie Rayner is that she’s human… Deep down, she’s expressing the anger that many of us feel.