September 25, 2022 - 3:52pm

ACC Liverpool

Angela Rayner hates Tories. The deputy leader opened Labour Conference with her speech yesterday, and told us what we already know. Angela Rayner hates Tories.

How much? Convert her hatred into pure wattage and you could end the energy crisis with a flicked switch. Listen to the language. The Tories are “sleaze merchants”. Tory donors are “cronies”. Their record in government is a “catalogue of sleaze, waste, and lies”. They turned Downing Street into a “crime scene”. They watch “tractor porn”. And now Liz Truss is “enriching bankers while families are starving”.

Oh, she hates them. Her politics is all us and them, friends and enemies, bankers and working families. In Rayner’s Britain the divide is between “nurses wearing bin bags” and a shower of purring fat cats enriched by dodgy pandemic contracts. “Whose side are you on?” she repeatedly asked Truss. 

In terms of policy announcements, mainly there were “plans” — a word she used eight times. A five-point national procurement plan, so local businesses can compete with “giant corporations” for government contracts on an equal footing. A “green prosperity plan”. A “plan to rebuild trust in public office”.

They are spending plans, basically. Rayner will “pump” money into “pockets” around the country. But a responsible, transparent, well-costed pumping. A value for money-pumping. A pumping for “the good of the nation”. Rayner “promised to keep the receipts” of government spending.

When she vowed to defend people’s rights, “including the right to strike”, I watched Keir Starmer’s face attempt to make peace between a smile and a grimace. Starmer is not a class warrior. He says far too little, and thinks it a strategy. Rayner says far too much, and thinks she is laying down the truth. Between them the Labour Party is pulled between trying not to scare voters and its most atavistic enmities. Win over the grandmothers who read the Mail? Or call the Tories scum.

“It’s going to be about policies, and there’s clear dividing lines on that,” Rayner told the Guardian over the weekend. Well, not on this evidence. The dividing lines are psychological and historical. Politics is a battle, and the Conservatives are the enemies. See scum? Call them scum. When she promised the Tories would be getting their “marching orders” very soon, the auditorium whooped and chortled. “Hatred alone”, wrote William Hazlitt in 1826, “is immortal”. Plus ça change.