Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner launched a war of words against Britain’s Conservative Party, describing Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet as “scum” for its views and accusing it of abandoning poorer people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Britain’s main opposition party, under new leader Keir Starmer, has struggled to make its case since Johnson became prime minister in 2019 having won over many of Labour’s traditional supporters in northern and central England.
Speaking to Labour members at the party’s conference in the southern English town of Brighton late on Saturday, Rayner called the Conservative government “a bunch of scum, homophobic, racist, misogynistic, absolute pile … of banana republic … Etonian … piece of scum”.
Asked about this on Sky News on Sunday, Rayner refused to apologise, saying: “What I was trying to get across … is the anger and frustration that people feel when you have a prime minister who has said things and not apologised that are racist, that are that are misogynistic, that are homophobic.”
Starmer said Rayner took “a different approach to me”.
“It’s not language that I would have used,” he told the BBC’s “Andrew Marr Show”, adding it was a matter for Rayner to decide whether to apologise or not.
Oliver Dowden, chair of the Conservative Party, accused Labour of “stoking the language of insult and division”.
“While we’re getting on with the job Labour are playing politics,” he said on Twitter.
Rayner’s remarks contrasted sharply with the usually sedate language used in Britain’s parliament.
She told Sky News she was trying to stir “fire in the belly” of Labour members at the party conference to fight against the government, which she accused of failing to help hungry children – something she felt when younger – and of handing profitable contracts during the pandemic to their friends.
The government has regularly said it is doing all it can to support people on lower incomes and has denied it oversees a “chumocracy”.
Johnson has apologised to people who have been offended by some of his comments but has said some were “wholly satirical”.
“Would I use some of the offending language from my past writings today? Now that I am prime minister, I would not,” he said in May.