Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner has apologised for branding a Conservative MP ‘scum’ during a heated debate in the Commons on the Covid-19 crisis, but stopped short of retracting the jibe.
Tory backbencher Chris Clarkson demanded an apology from Angela Rayner in a public letter after he suggested that the Labour frontbench was viewing the pandemic as a ‘good crisis’ to be exploited.
However, Angela Rayner then heckled Mr Clarkson, who asked: ‘Excuse me, did the honourable lady just call me scum?’
The exchange prompted an intervention from a furious Commons Deputy Speaker Dame Eleanor Laing who said she would not accept such comments in the chamber ‘under any circumstances’.
Ms Rayner has now apologised for branding Mr Clarkson ‘scum’ but stopped short of a retraction in a terse response to a request to comment.
Outraged Tory MPs are calling on Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to reprimand his deputy over the ill-judge remark.
n a public letter, the Tory MP said: ‘During my contribution highlighting the importance of the public health measures being introduced in the North of England, I drew the attention of the House to comments you made towards me, namely referring to me as ‘scum’.
‘As elected representatives I believe we have a duty to lead by example. I am also aware that this is not the first time you have used the phrase ‘scum’ to describe members of this Government and of my Party.
‘While I believe strongly in the privilege of freedom of speech in the Chamber, it must be tempered with responsibility.
‘During my contribution, I expressed my disappointment that your Party has seemingly put aside its promises of ‘constructive opposition’, in favour of the same divisive politics the British public voted to put aside.
‘In the spirit of those promises of constructive opposition and in the interest of providing a united front in the battle against Coronavirus, I respectfully ask that you retract and apologise for your comments.’
Responding to a request to comment, Ms Rayner said: ‘I apologise for the language that I used in a heated debate in Parliament earlier.’
Her apology was short, and she stopped short of retracting the smear.
Later, she attacked Tory MPs who voted against Labour’s motion to extend footballer Marcus Rashford’s scheme to extend free school meals.
‘Tonight I voted to feed our country’s vulnerable and needy children,’ the Labour deputy leader tweeted.
‘The Tories voted to let them go hungry. I voted for workers facing hardship in areas under lockdown to get 80% of their incomes. The Tories voted against it.
‘That’s all you need to know.’
The clash between Ms Rayner and Mr Clarkson happened during an opposition day debate in the Commons as MPs debated funding for areas facing additional coronavirus restrictions.