Angela Rayner and Dawn Butler are running to be Labour’s next deputy leader. Rayner has made a campaign launch speech about social class-shaming – here’s why it is so important, regardless of what you think about her politics.
In the race to find the next Labour Party leader, female politicians are putting themselves forward to replace Jeremy Corbyn. Rebecca Bailey-Long is the latest MP to declare her position, joining Jess Phillips, Lisa Nandy, Emily Thornberry and Clive Lewis. If a female MP wins the vote, it will be a historic moment for Labour, which has never had a woman leading the party before.
And two women have also announced their intention to run for deputy leadership. Angela Rayner launched her campaign on Monday (6 January), running against Dawn Butler, Richard Burgon and Khalid Mahmood.
As part of her campaign launch, Rayner gave a powerful speech about social class, being told that she “didn’t belong” in parliament, and breaking the norms in Westminster. She also recalled a time she was compared to Vicky Pollard from Little Britain because of her accent and upbringing.
Speaking in her Ashton-under-Lyne constituency, Rayner said:
“I wanted to make this speech here on the estate where I grew up and lived most of my life. I talk about my background because for too long, I felt I wasn’t good enough, I felt ashamed of who I was. It took me time for that shame to turn into pride. I want children growing up here now to know that they are worth as much as anyone else. And I want the world of Westminster politics to hear that too.”
She continued: “Because I remember when I first spoke from the front bench in the House of Commons, a parliamentary sketch writer said I must have got lost from the set of Little Britain. It was another way of saying that I didn’t know my place. Maybe I don’t but I know the place that I came from and it’s here. Not so much Little Britain, but real Britain.”
Regardless of whether or not you agree with Rayner’s politics and her suitability as Labour deputy leader, her words here are essential for everyone to listen to.
That’s because a 2017 study by The Sutton Trust found that nearly a third of MPs are privately educated, compared to 7% of the overall population. Over one in 10 went to Eton. And 87% are university graduates – 24% went to Oxford or Cambridge, 30% went to non-Oxbridge Russell Group. It’s worth noting that over 60% of Oxford University students went to private or grammar school.
But Rayner’s story is a very different one from the majority of her peers in parliament.
Rayner left school at 16, attended college to become a qualitied social care worker, then went on to work for Stockport Council. She was selected to become Labour’s candidate for Ashton-under-Lyne in 2014 and won the seat in the general election 2016. In the same year, she was appointed to the position of Shadow Secretary of State for Education. Last December, she was re-elected MP for Ashton-under-Lyne.
Her presence in the Commons shouldn’t be significant but, according to the stats, it still is. If she is not elected as deputy leader, it should have nothing to do with her social class and background.