‘I’m fiery, I’m red and I’m from the North – no need to deny it’
Angela Rayner likes a good track. She regrets calling a Conservative MP “scum” – but only because it was not parliamentary language. “I thought it was – compared to what you would call it in my local liquor. “I’m fiery,” she says when asked if she has character. “I am red and I am Nordic. There is no point in denying it.
But Labor’s deputy leader and one of its most effective communicators says she has had her “wings cut” lately. She insists it’s the pandemic and not Keir Starmer who is to blame and says she was part of a “strategic decision” to allow him to come into the limelight.
Talk to I In her Commons office, Rayner makes it clear that she is ready to fly again. She says Labor has just crossed the threshold into the homes of voters it has lost and still sometimes ‘oversteps’. “We do not yet have an authoritative voice in this room. People are always annoyed, sometimes they say, “So what would you do then? It’s good for you to say that. There is still a lot of anger and resentment towards the Labor Party for these voters who we must win back because they feel we have let them down.
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“Reestablishing that trust with these voters does not happen overnight. We didn’t lose them overnight either. We have been losing them for a very long time. Even before Jeremy Corbyn, we were losing these voters, and it will take a lot of work to fix that with them.
Starmer and his team know it will be tough if the Labor Party loses Hartlepool in the parliamentary by-elections, even if there are signs of hope elsewhere. “We could win Hartlepool,” Rayner begins tentatively, “We can win Hartlepool,” she said quickly. At least most voters have stopped insulting them. “I got on the Battle Bus in 2019 and outside of Wetherspoons – let’s just say it was pretty industrial language. When I went there about a week ago the people were really friendly. Not all pub visits on the country lane have been so cordial.
Some inside critics say voters are detecting a lack of authenticity on the part of Starmer’s leadership, but Rayner believes this is part of the Labor trend to ‘talk inside’. In a hurry, she says the party can sometimes set unachievable standards of virtue that alienate each other.
“We have set the bar so high that no one can reach it, including voters. Our company is not perfect, but we aspire to be better. On things like civil rights, for example, and sometimes we even leave our own activists behind, let alone our constituents. The aspirations are good. But at the end of the day, we have to bring people with us to win the election. “
Does she think, then, that the Labor Party can come across as judgmental to those it seeks support? “Yeah very.” “They feel very condescendingly judged.” She’s caustic towards those looking for flippant descriptions or incitement to working-class voters like hers in the Bridge Hall estate in Stockport.
“We are not a homogeneous group. And we’re not going to be patronized either. You can’t buy us with a little gem. It’s like the Brexiteers – people thought they were all white people in their fifties – well they weren’t, because if they were, we wouldn’t be leaving the European Union.
Later, she adds: “Brexit was not the fundamental divide, it was part of a problem. It was not the only problem. Jeremy Corbyn wasn’t the only problem. People think, “If only I got rid of Jeremy, that would be it.” “
She is careful to avoid any hint of criticism of Starmer personally, and denies having vetoed Rachel Reeves as Shadow Chancellor (although she concedes that she urged him to ensure that “all the ‘wings’ of the party are represented in the shadow cabinet, which could amount to the same thing.).
Without quite saying it, however, Rayner makes it clear that she wants her boss to be dynamic and less defensive. She thinks he should make a virtue of his career and his professional success. “Keir must be genuinely Keir.
“Boris Johnson won in some of the northern seats because people knew what they were getting. They seen he was a guy with, you know, flaws. He was imperfect. But he cared about his country, he cared about the people as they saw it – even though it pained me to say it.
He’s the button-down lawyer who fights for the heart of Bridget Jones and author Helen Fielding admits the similarities between Keir Starmer and Mark Darcy.
She denied that the Labor leader, a rising star in the legal world when the journals were first written, was the inspiration.
The myth lives on, however, at least in Angela Rayner’s electronics. “I don’t know if I should tell you this but he’s in my [phone] diary like “Mr. Darcy ”. “
The more people see Starmer’s “warts and everything,” the better, she says. “He should say, ‘Yeah, I’m a London lawyer. But I am also a father, proud of my country, a good civil servant, who has always measured himself by the best.
“So I think, yeah, he has to show it all.” And I think it’s more important than ever, that’s why I don’t change my accent and start saying things, you know, try to pronounce things better, that’s why I don’t deliver scripts and lines. Because at the end of the day, I am who I am, I make mistakes. I am a politician who makes mistakes. Because I’m a human, you know.