After the week Dominic Raab has had (having been sacked as Foreign Secretary), the last thing he needed was to meet a fired-up Angela Rayner at the despatch box. With Boris Johnson on tour in the US, Raab stepped in for the Prime Minister, and so too did Rayner for Keir Starmer. The deputy Labour leader clearly enjoyed the session, skewering the out-of-touch Tory minister over his holidaying antics and fondness for mansions. Raising a pamphlet written by Raab and asking him whether he still thinks that British workers are “the worst idlers in the world“, Rayner laid bare out-of-touch Tory politics and disdain for ordinary people. “Maybe he should go back to his sun lounger and let me take over,” she told MPs.
Rayner got in plenty of jibes. Referring to his decision to stay in a family holiday in Greece while Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, she asked: “Can he tell us how many days a worker on the minimum wage would have to work this year in order to afford a night at a luxury hotel, say in Crete?” After Raab refused to say, she told MPs they would need to work 50 extra days, “probably even more if the sea was open”. She also took aim at the spat between Raab and Liz Truss over who will use Chevening House: “Families across the country are worried about heating their homes, while he’s complaining about having to share his 115-room, taxpayer-funded mansion with the Foreign Secretary.”
Her line of attack reflected the point that Labour has been making over the past few weeks: Conservative policies, including the cut to Universal Credit and increase to National Insurance contributions, combined with spiralling energy prices are making for a cruel living standards crisis. Rayner accused the government of hitting working families hard, “cutting the income of a worker on £18,000 a year by over £1,100” with tax rises. “Just as energy prices are ballooning they have chosen to take the money that could cover a year’s worth of bills out of the pockets of working people.” The Conservatives are determined to implement their Universal Credit cut – the largest overnight cut to social security in the history of welfare. Public sector wage freezes, near-mandatory hikes in council tax and rising rent, childcare and travel costs are all set to make things harder for working people. Labour will, unfortunately, have more ammo to hurl at the Tories as the winter advances.