Why can’t Angela Rayner dress properly, wonders Camilla Long in The Sunday Times. There she was, pounding the streets during the Hartlepool by-election in leopard-print leggings, chunky black boots and a hoodie. Why didn’t Keir Starmer “just tell her her clothes looked as though they’d been rescued from a flash fire in a Sicilian brothel, before giving the seditious moaner the boot?” Rayner herself doesn’t understand the fuss. “They’re vegan-friendly boots,” she told The Times. Besides, “if I worried about everything everyone said about me, I wouldn’t have even picked myself up after being a single mum at 16”.
A single mum at 16, then a grandmother at 37, Rayner calls herself “Grangela”. She grew up on a council estate in Greater Manchester. Her parents lived off benefits and she often missed meals as a child. Her mother, who was one of 12, couldn’t read. When Rayner got pregnant, she dropped out of school and qualified as a care worker. Later she joined Unison, where she met her (now ex) husband, had two more children and climbed through the union ranks into politics. It’s an impressive tale, but one that’s wearing thin, says Barbara Ellen in The Guardian. After all, it’s patronising to presume you can win working-class votes just by being working class. Rayner should stuff the backstory: “The only people who lap that up are the middle classes.”
Still, within Labour it’s working, says Steven Swinford in The Times. The charismatic Rayner has the party’s buttoned-up leader wrapped around her finger. After the Hartlepool defeat, rumours circulated that Starmer would demote her. Other whispers suggested that she would try to oust him. Reportedly, a panicked Starmer rang Rayner repeatedly to no reply. She was in the pub. When they finally spoke, she left the meeting with three new titles. She’s like a lioness, said Boris Johnson in the Commons. The more jobs Starmer feeds her, the hungrier she gets. “Bring it on,” Rayner tells Swinford. “I’m quite happy to pounce on the little mouse.” Boris is the mouse, she adds. “Just to be absolutely clear.”