Thursday 18 April 2024

The Tory Obsession with Angela Rayner

Some quick points about the Tories' obsessive attacks on Angela Rayner.

1. From their side of the fence, Matthew Parris's argument that the Tories hate her because she's an "uppity lass" rings true. These are the sort of people who can barely tolerate the few working class Tories they have on their own benches, let alone those with the temerity to oppose and hurl jibes at them from the opposition. She doesn't fit the briefcase image the Tories cultivate to affect seriousness of purpose. And one other Labour MPs of working class origin, such as Wes Streeting and Bridget Phillipson, aspire to by effacing their background. She stands out because she's unapologetic, refuses to submit to their style of politics, and whose presence might encourage more of the hoi polloi to enter into parliamentary politics. We can't well have that.

2. As Diane Abbott is temporarily unavailable as a hate figure for the Tories, they need a new target. For the above reasons, Rayner grates on the Tory psyche outside of parliament as well. Not only is she working class, but she was a favourite scapegoat of the recent pass - she was a teenaged mum. There are Tory voters for whom 1908s and 1990s press campaigns demonising single and unmarried young mums left a sweet spot their party can tickle at any time. And now they're in the direst of straits, the Tories are using anything, anything to try and consolidate their fraying core vote coalition. Their smears of Rayner, "coincidentally" coming at a time of Tory scandals, is a doomed effort at plugging the gaps.

3. This isn't just about style or not liking working class women. There is relevant political content here that goes beyond her simply batting for the red team. Because Rayner came up through Unison and is, rare these days, an example of the old shop floor to the parliamentary floor conveyor belt, she is a reminder of a labour movement the Tories have long thought was very dead. But also Rayner has taken up the championing of workers' rights. These, like everything else, have been diluted since Keir Starmer articulated the place for trade unions in his authoritarian modernisation project. But it says everything about how pathetic workers' protections are in this country that even as they stand watered down, what Labour is presenting today would mark a positive step forward. This is too much for a Tory party dedicated to driving out the barest influence of the labour movement on mainstream politics. They attack Rayner because she embodies what, in their view, is an illegitimate presence. A view that does have a following among Labour's ranks too.

4. Given the dismal part Rayner played in throwing Jeremy Corbyn and the left under a bus, and how she enables Starmerism, some comrades have wondered aloud why others on the left, and not just those remaining inside of Labour, have defended her? When the left was down she put the boot in, and she's hardly going to jeopardise her own meteoric rise in the party to defend socialists in the future. An entirely reasonable question. And the answer to this is why the Tories are attacking her. I.e. She's a working class woman who has no place in politics because of who she is, the fact she represents the labour movement on the front bench, and she is pushing a pro-trade union line that the Tories absolutely cannot countenance. They want her gone so, they hope, this agenda might disappear with her and that future leading working class MPs will steer clear of workers' rights to avoid getting hounded by the media.

Image Credit


McIntosh said...

Isn't it a while since Angela Rayner has been working class? Her origins lie there but her occupation, income, housing and the people she mixes with have propelled her out of that social class.
And isn't her attacks on tory'scum' in all their glorious colour just about giving an ideological cover for her support for Starmerism? When it came to a choice between supporting Sam Tarry and endangering her positions she decided it was better to stay where she was - and so she has also abandoned Corbyn, Abbott, etc.
It may be valuable to consider her the Bessie Braddstock or Betty Boothroyd of her generation. Start out as a firebrand of the left and work your way to the right.

PurplePete said...

More pantomime politics. Give it a rest. Who cares? Rayner isn’t even a footnote.

Anonymous said...

And posts like the first comment sum up why the hard left will never amount to anything - anybody who doesn't meet well nigh impossible standards of "purity" is thrown to the wolves.

One day, maybe you will learn the importance of alliances and making coalitions. Until then.....

McIntosh said...

Thank you Anonymous for capturing my views and political position so well. I trilled with pleasure at seeing my character captured - hard left, ne'r do well, impossiblist, heartless, unstrategic. All from suggesting Angel may not be an angel but a careerist politician.
You are quite the analyst.

Blissex said...

"They attack Rayner because she embodies what, in their view, is an illegitimate presence."

Our blogger after after writing well in the recent past that politics is about interests, is still following the conventional wisdom that electoral politics is about culture and identity, and by and large opines that Rayner is illegitimate to the Conservatives because of her identity.

But I agree more that her being apparently a "trot" because of her labor union background is what really outrages them, because they are afraid she might be a mole of worker interests in the next government. There is no real risk of that happening of course, but still they worry. Note how the Conservatives, both party and voters, have not minded a significant number of differently colored or oriented people or women in the leadership, seemingly blind to identity nowadays, but their voters have gotten into a big strop about falling property prices, even if they are recovering (whether in time for the next election will be seen).

The Conservatives are very sensitive not to identity but to class as they presume it correlates to interests (it often does), here is an old example:
"The former Conservative Prime Minister Harold Macmillan once remarked of Tebbit: "Heard a chap on the radio this morning talking with a cockney accent. They tell me he is one of Her Majesty's ministers"."

Blissex said...

«anybody who doesn't meet well nigh impossible standards of "purity" is thrown to the wolves.»

Corbyn? Tarry? Phillips? Long-Bailey?

Soon there will be only Starmer, Streeting, Reeves left :-).

And for entertaining value here is a far-right opinionist on the FT stating authoritatively that anybody to the left of Blair is obviously not electable. A perfect recipe for recasting New, New Labour as Change UK!>
“Starmer has more or less contained the hard left. But that is the lesser task. Extremists are small in number and so objectionable as to be spotted a mile off. Labour’s historic problem, the author of its defeats in 1992, 2015 and too many other years, is the soft left. Between a Tony Blair and a Jeremy Corbyn is a vast tranche of opinion that is neither extreme nor electable.”

Rodney said...

Always strange to be reminded that right wingers hate the left so much they think we aren't able to remember the period between 2015 and 2019 when they relentlessly sabotaged and attacked the left for not meeting their standards of neoliberal purity.

And any calls to support Rayner bring to mind the Aesop of the Farmer and the Snake.

Anonymous said...

Personally I prefer the Registrar General's definition of class, which is based on one's current occupation. Rayner is an MP and therefore by definition in an administrative/managerial occupation, social class A.

If we base it on income she is likewise middle class, on £80,000 + per annum.

The only people who care about the "class background" of MPs are politicians, academics, and journalists. Plenty of people from upper class backgrounds, like Tony Benn and Clement Atlee, have worked for the greater good of the Many, and plenty who've remained solidly in the working class well into adult life, like Lee Anderson, have totally betrayed them.

Sean Dearg said...

Hurrah! Old "Property" Bliss is back. See here Phil, all this clever stuff about culture and identity is pointless blather. So what if a bunch of Frenchies wrote some interminable unreadable books about it all? I've got the answer to everything political - own a house? Tory. Don't? Someone else. OK, so quite a lot of Labour and Lib Dem and Green and Reform and so on also own houses. But the point still stands! Everything. Literally EVERYTHING, is decided on property prices. NOTHING ELSE MATTERS.

Anonymous said...

quite a bit more than 80k