Who is Angela Rayner? The story behind the country’s possible next deputy PM

Who is Angela Rayner? The story behind the country’s possible next deputy PM
  • PublishedApril 14, 2024

Angela Rayner could be the new deputy prime minister before the year is out. Here’s what you need to know about the Labour Party’s deputy leader – from her early life and career in politics to the abuse and controversy she has faced.

Angela Rayner is set to become the UK’s deputy prime minister if Labour wins the next general election. 

Here’s what you need to know about the party’s deputy leader – from her early life and career in politics to the abuse and controversy she has faced.

Early life and career

Born in Stockport in 1980, Ms Rayner was brought up on a council estate. She left school at 16 with no qualifications and pregnant with her first son.

She says she was told she would “never amount to anything”.

“When I was young, we didn’t have books because my mother couldn’t read or write,” Ms Rayner said in an interview with the Financial Times.

She told the newspaper she could easily have been taken into care and admitted she felt “resentment” because, as a child, she had to look after her mother, who had bipolar disorder.

After giving birth, Ms Rayner went to college part-time, studying British sign language and social care.

Soon after becoming a care worker for the local council, she was put forward as a union rep.

Angela Rayner in 2017

“I was mouthy and I would take no messing from management,” Ms Rayner said.

From there, she became a full-time union official and rose through the ranks to become Unison’s convenor in the North West, representing 200,000 workers.

Ms Rayner married Unison official Mark Rayner in 2010. The couple separated in 2020.

She has three sons and in 2017, she became a grandmother.

Life in politics

Angela Rayner on the Labour frontbench with Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott in 2017
Image:Angela Rayner on the Labour frontbench with Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott in 2017

Ms Rayner entered parliament In 2015, when she became the first woman MP in the 180-year history of her Ashton-under-Lyne constituency.

She went on to hold the position of shadow pensions minister, as well as the education and women and equalities briefs in the shadow cabinet.

She was elected as deputy leader of the Labour Party in 2020 but was sacked as party chair following poor results in the English local elections.

But she pushed back against Keir Starmer’s attempts to demote her and was eventually given a role as shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, as well as a newly created post as shadow secretary for the future of work.

In September 2023, she was appointed shadow levelling up secretary in a reshuffle aimed at putting the “strongest possible players on the pitch” ahead of the next election.

‘Principles would not have fed me’

Ms Rayner is known for being on the left of the Labour Party and has described herself as a socialist “but not a Corbynite”.

But she has also defended compromises she has made with colleagues in the shadow cabinet, saying she will not let her principles “block” her party from getting elected.

Speaking to the Beth Rigby Interviews programme on Sky News, she said it was “not about getting rid of my principles”.

But she added: “When I was a free school meals kid, principles would not have fed me. It was the free school meals programme that Labour brought in.”

She said the only way for those projects to become a reality was to win at the ballot box, meaning the “overriding principle” for her was “delivery”.

Abuse and controversy

Ms Rayner has received rape and death threats and has talked about how she had panic buttons installed at her home.

In 2021, a man was sentenced after he admitted sending a threatening email telling her to “watch your back and your kids”.

Separately, on the day of the sentence, Ms Rayner apologised “unreservedly” for calling Conservatives “scum” during her party’s conference the previous month.

She had initially refused to apologise but later said she would not use the same language again, having reflected on the “threats and abuse” that often feature in politics.

In 2022, a Mail On Sunday article claimed Tory MPs had accused her of a “Basic Instinct” ploy to distract Boris Johnson by crossing and uncrossing her legs.

Describing the article as “disgusting”, Ms Rayner said the piece “wasn’t just about me as a woman, it was also steeped in classism and about where I come from, where I grew up”.

The article received a huge backlash, with Boris Johnson saying while he did not agree with her politically, he “deplore[d] the misogyny directed at her anonymously”.

Controversy also reached Ms Rayner in 2024 over her living arrangements and tax affairs before she became an MP.

She has denied any wrongdoing.

The deputy leader is facing questions over whether she paid the right amount of tax following the sale of her council house in Stockport in 2015, after critics cast doubt on her claim that the property was her principal residence.

In April, the police reopened an investigation into claims she may have broken electoral law by declaring her own home, Vicarage Road, to be her main residence rather than her then husband’s home – although she has insisted she lived in her own home the whole time.

She has said she is not liable for capital gains tax and has received expert advice to back that up.

A Labour Party spokesperson said the Ashton-under-Lyne MP “welcomes the chance to set out the facts with the police” after Greater Manchester Police reopened its investigation following a complaint from Tory MP James Daly.


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