‘She was at the Glyndebourne music festival sipping champagne, listening to opera. Champagne socialism is back in the Labour party’
Standing in for Boris Johnson, the deputy prime minister hit out at Labour’s deputy leader after pictures emerged of her in the Sussex countryside during the rail strikes last week.
“Where was she when the comrades were on the picket line last Thursday?” Mr Raab asked, adding: “She was at the Glyndebourne music festival, sipping champagne.”
Mr Raab smiled and winked at his opposite number across the Commons despatch box as the pair clashed over tax rises and the government’s crackdown on noisy protests.
Ms Rayner hit back, saying Tory ministers spent an evening last week “at the banqueting table getting hundreds of thousands squeezed out of their donors”.
She also criticised Mr Raab for relaxing “on a sunlounger” while people fled Afghanistan last summer – a mistake that led to his sacking as foreign secretary.
Later, a No 10 spokesman denied Mr Raab’s criticism was an attack on a working-class woman, such as Ms Rayner, enjoying champagne and opera.
“The prime minister is clear that everybody should be able to enjoy arts and culture and other such things across the UK,” he said.
“The government lost two by-elections in one day, the first in three decades. It’s no wonder that the prime minister has fled the country and left the honourable member to carry the can,” she alleged.
“The people of Wakefield and Tiverton held their own vote of no confidence. The prime minister isn’t just losing the room, he is losing their country.
“But instead of showing some humility, he intends to limp on until the 2030s. So, does he think the cabinet will prop him up for this long?”
Mr Raab raised Ms Rayner’s own leadership ambitions, saying: “I gently point out to her that we want this prime minister going a lot longer than she wants the leader of Labour Party…”, before being cut off.
He argued the Conservatives still have “a working majority of 75” and that “we are focusing on delivering for the British people”.
The deputy prime minister added: “We will protect the public from these damaging rail strikes, when we have got the scene of Labour frontbenchers joining the picket lines.”
Mr Raab also taunted Labour over Keir Starmer confirming he has ripped up Labour’s defeated 2019 election manifesto, arguing that meant he has “no plan” after two years as leader.
“Tony Blair – he has actually got some experience of winning elections – says there is a gaping hole in Labour’s policy offer and all the while she is revelling in it.”