Sir Keir Starmer has refused to back Angela Rayner’s fiery comments over the past 24 hours about Boris Johnson and his cabinet being “racist…homophobic…scum”.
Starmer said he would “not have used” those phrases and suggested that it was “not keeping with respectful debate”.
The Labour leader said he would talk to his deputy about the tirade, but stopped short of saying she should apologise.
Rayner told a fringe meeting at the Labour party conference in Brighton last night that “we cannot get any worse than a bunch of scum, homophobic, racist, misogynistic, absolute vile…banana republic, vile, nasty, Etonian…piece of scum.”
She refused to apologise for the comments in an interview with Sky News this morning and instead doubled down, saying “we have a Prime Minister who has said things, and not apologised, that are racist, that are misogynistic, that are homophobic”.
“Anyone who leaves children hungry during a pandemic and can give millions of pounds to their mates on Whatsapp, I think that was pretty scummy,” she added.
She also claimed that using the word “scummy” was just evidence of the way she spoke as a northern class woman, calling it her “street language”.
Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said it was “not my preferred choice of words”.
She told Times Radio: “I’m not very interested in insulting the Tories, I just want to get rid of them.
“I’m as angry as Angela is about the damage that they’re doing but I’m less interested in talking about them, more interested in talking about an alternative.”
Tory MPs have taken to Twitter en masse to criticise Rayner for her comments.
Bishop Auckland MP Dehenna Davison said: “You can’t dismiss abusive insults as ‘just slang’ to try and excuse your behaviour.
“Rayner should apologise for her part in creating this toxic political culture. Most MPs of all parties are good people trying to make a difference. We all need to remember that and cool down.”
Foreign minister Amanda Milling said: “Don’t forget Rayner was Corbyn’s henchman when Labour became embroiled in antisemitism. She failed to act.”