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Corbyn: Angela Rayner's Tory 'scum' comments 'saying it like it needs to be said'

26 September 2021, 21:16 | Updated: 26 September 2021, 22:58

By Will Taylor

Jeremy Corbyn believes Angela Rayner's comments calling Tories "scum" were "saying it like it needs to be said".

The Islington North MP, whose followers have been critical of the party's direction since he stepped down, also refused to provide an endorsement of Sir Keir Starmer's time as Labour leader.

In an interview with LBC's Ben Kentish, he said Angela Rayner did not need to apologise for her description of Conservatives as "scum", saying Labour should "go after the Tories".

Labour's deputy leader Ms Rayner caused a storm with her remarks, and has remained defiant after Conservative calls for her to apologise.

Mr Corbyn said: "Angela uses her own words, she's absolutely right to attack this government for the way it's treating people in our society.

"Britain now has more food banks and branches of McDonald's, more children living in poverty, greater levels of inequality than ever before in my lifetime, and Angela's right to go after Tories.

"I wish this whole conference was spending it's whole time going after the Tories rather than rule changes. I don't think she has anything to apologise for. She speaks from the heart, she's saying it like it needs to be said."

Sir Keir is negotiating a tricky conference, having had to water down his reforms for how Labour leaders get elected – which Corbyn supporters believed could stop a similar-minded left-winger from taking charge in the future.

LBC Views: Starmer should have brushed off Rayner's remark with a wry smile

Several of those attending the conference in Brighton believe Sir Keir leans too much to their right and have been critical of his leadership.

Asked if he agreed with speakers who described his successor's time in charge as "pathetic", Mr Corbyn said: "Well, what I want is a party that is focused on dealing with inequality and injustice in our society.

"And as you know... I never get involved in personal attacks on anybody.

"Our party needs to be much stronger in its opposition to this government over Covid and inequality in our society, and also the apparent departure from the principles of public ownership of the major public monopolies in this country I think is wrong.

"I think we need to be supporting public ownership, at the very least of mail, rail, water and energy."

He admitted being under pressure as leader is "something I know a great deal about" and that it is often a "very lonely place".

"You make mistakes, we all make mistakes, everybody does, but trust your own instincts, and realise why you're there.

Read more: Angela Rayner's 'scum' comments 'bring Labour politics into the gutter', says Tory VC

Read more: Rayner was 'expressing real emotion' and 'humanity' in Tory 'scum' rant, says McDonnell

"You're there in responsibility for the hopes and aspirations of millions of people who are badly treated, ill served by our current society. Labour has to be a party of transformation, or it's nothing."

He did not respond directly to a question about whether Sir Keir would be a good prime minister, and when asked if he knew what Sir Keir stood for, Mr Corbyn said: "You have to ask him that question, not me.

"I have obviously worked with Sir Keir Starmer when he was (shadow) Brexit secretary, and he has an incredible mastery of law and detail and we worked well on all those issues but you have to ask him those questions."

Sir Keir had tried to return to the previous method of choosing leaders, replacing the "one member, one vote" method with an electoral college of unions, affiliate organisations, MPs and party members getting an equal share.

In the face of opposition, he watered that plan down to instead require candidates to have the backing of 20% of MPs, up from just 10% needed now. Mr Corbyn got just 16% when he was nominated in 2015.

The plans were backed by 54% of people at the conference on Sunday.

Mr Corbyn said: "As Attlee and every other previous leader has said, the Labour Party has two wings to fly on, the left and the right. And if you ditch one wing, it can't fly.

"The people who are active in the party are those that have socialist ideas. The inspiration of socialism, they're the ones that take the message on the doorstep

"If you don't motivate them, then we're not going to be very effective on any doorstep anywhere."